With the news that Boston officials are allowing business owners to return to their stores and restaurants in the Copley Square crime scene area, the Boston Globe is reporting that many are not sure what they will encounter upon their return. Unaware of the exact nature of the damage, it is certain that many will have suffered a hefty loss to their property and contents as a result of the two bomb blasts on April 15.
Along with the clean-up and other work required to re-open, business owners are now faced with the task of preparing and submitting a complicated claim to their insurance company, a task required by their insurance policy. What should they do?
For most people, the preparation of a property damage insurance claim is unfamiliar and rough terrain—depreciation, replacement cost, actual cash value, business income, extra expense, etc. At times, the list seems endless, but it is the responsibility of the insured to prepare and prove their claim to the insurance company. In order to be successful, business owners will need to have a thorough understanding of insurance coverages and the adjustment process.
The good news is that business owners do not have to go it alone—they can hire a Public Adjuster (PA). PAs have the expertise to accurately and rapidly determine the scope and value of the loss. These are vital ingredients for a successful settlement. PAs understand the process and can easily anticipate the hurdles that will need to be jumped. And, although the insurance company will assign internal adjusters to handle your claim, they represent the interest of the insurance company that employs them. PAs represent only you, the policyholder, and their only objective is to get the highest possible settlement for the business owner in the quickest amount of time.
At Professional Loss Adjusters (PLA), our PAs relieve business owners of the time-consuming and difficult matters involved in preparing and filing a claim. There will be no need for owners to learn the murky details of the insurance policy and the complicated adjustment process. And, owners will avoid the risk of making mistakes that could hinder their recovery—leaving them free to concentrate on recovering and rebuilding the business.
But, even if a business owner hires a PA to help settle their loss, there are important things that an owner can do early on to ensure a positive outcome. The following checklist serves as a quick reference and guide to follow after a loss occurs. This is not intended to replace professional advice. For additional information and assistance, please feel free to contact us at 1-888-747-8260.
Board up and protect your property from further damage.
Contact your insurance company and/or agent immediately to report the loss (as required by the insurance policy.)
Check with the fire/safety department to make sure your property is safe to enter. Be watchful of any structural damage.
The fire department should see that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
If your property is uninhabitable, contact the local police department to let them know the site will be unoccupied. Consider hiring a guard service to watch the property and its contents.
Document the loss with photographs.
Save all the receipts for any money you spend after the loss.
Do not repair or throw away any damaged property until after an inventory is taken and approved by the insurance company’s adjuster.
Beware of contractors urging you to sign a contract (other than for emergency services) before you have agreed with your insurance company on a loss settlement.
Read the insurance policy carefully so that you understand all your obligations under the policy.
Coordinate the property, business interruption and extra expense claims.
Assemble a claims management team. Have one person speak on behalf of your organization.
Concentrate on restoring your operations and not on preparing claim details—leave that to the professionals.
Remember that you are obligated by the terms of your insurance policy to file a claim.
Take a proactive position. Hire your own experts to work on your behalf and to ensure that you receive a fair and quick settlement.
Click here to download a .pdf version of the Business Claims Checklist.
Things To Remember
• A PA will take a physical inventory, obtain all pertinent approvals, and confirm that all provisions of the insured’s policy have been considered. The process involves numerous steps that the inexperienced insured is unaware of. These steps will significantly impact the final settlement.
• The technical language of an insurance policy and the complicated procedures an insured must follow to comply with the policy’s terms are often complex and confusing. Many important terms are not even defined in the policy. PAs provide the advantage of expertise derived from representing thousands of insureds who have faced similar technical problems.
• Insurance companies pay close attention to their bottom line. After an insurance company adjuster has formed his or her initial impressions of a loss and filed a report to the insurance company, it can be difficult to change that opinion of the loss and obtain a higher settlement. When a PA is retained initially, each potentially thorny issue can be discussed and negotiated without such difficulty.
• PAs work on a contingency basis and are paid a percentage of the insurance company’s settlement, as regulated by the state. This fee is generally more than offset by a significantly higher settlement.
• Most insurance company representatives prefer to work with an experienced, accredited PA. An accredited PA must adhere to a strict code of ethics established by the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA). We, at PLA, are members of NAPIA and MAPIA, and are A+ rated with the Better Business Bureau.