If you have suffered a loss, here are questions you should ask and things you should know before you file a claim.
The answer to this question is not the same for everyone who has suffered a loss. Homeowners policies do not always have the same coverage. It is very important to read your policy to determine what is covered, and the level of coverage that exists. If you cannot locate your policy, contact your insurance agent or company immediately. Your agent or company will usually be able to address your questions quickly and accurately. Many companies have Disaster Claim Teams that have been sent to the area.
The standard homeowners insurance coverage will cover most of your loss. Most policies have deductibles that will apply. Coverage will usually cover the replacement cost for the damaged portion of your home, including any upgrades that are required by local codes when damage is repaired. Personal property will be covered for replacement cost only if specifically stated in your policy, but there are usually specific restrictions or requirements in obtaining the replacement cost reimbursement. If you are unable to live in your home due to damage, you will likely have coverage for reasonable expenses incurred for temporary accommodations, subject to policy limits. This coverage will usually not cover all expenses, just those above your usual monthly expense. Most contracts cover the expense of debris removal from you home. This coverage is usually provided in addition to the policy limit restriction that applies to the repair of the damage to your home or garage.
The rebuilding process is never as quick as we wish it could be. With the widespread extensive damage that has been sustained in the area, the insurance companies will be hard pressed to be able to provide the type of expeditious service that we all would like. The claims settlement statutes dictate that companies must handle claims in a responsive manner. However, some of the time frames that are established in the law allow a company up to 60 days to respond to some issues. Most companies will be much more responsive than that. You can expect responses to most of your concerns or problems within a day or two. Though it is not required, some companies have set up programs that allow their on-site adjusters to issue checks in advance to cover some of the additional living expenses and replacement of some essential person property. Once you have made contact with your company adjuster, ask him/her about the availability of such programs.
You can avoid many of the problems that can be experienced in the removal of the debris and the rebuilding process by making sure that you coordinate closely with the company adjuster. Remember to ask the contractor if he/she is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (required by law) as a building contractor. Get all proposals in writing, and be sure the contractor's name, phone number, address, and license number is on the proposal.
Property and casualty insurance coverages are not mandated by law and are subject to policy provisions and coverages.
No policy covers everything. Policy coverage is limited to the policy provisions and is subject to the policy's limitations, deductibles, and exclusions.
In some cases, personal property, including machinery, needs to be added to a schedule or policy (with an endorsement) before any coverage would apply.
If you have a question about your insurance
Contact your insurance agent and/or company with questions about your policy and the coverage you have.
If you have a problem with your insurance company, call:
Consumer Response Team
Minnesota Department of Commerce
1-800-657-3602 (MN only outside metro area)
The Consumer Response Team (CRT) helps consumers with questions about laws concerning industries regulated by the Department of Commerce. You may also check on the status of a license held by an industry practitioner. In addition, if there is a dispute with a licensee, the CRT will attempt to resolve the matter informally. If the dispute can not be resolved, the CRT will suggest the consumer write a letter, with all of the relevant information, in order to begin a formal investigation.
If you are unable to resolve a problem or complaint with your insurance company, write to:
Minnesota Department of Commerce
Consumer Protection & Education Division
85 Seventh Place East,
St. Paul, MN, 55101
The Minnesota Department of Commerce investigates written complaints against licensees. Investigations seek to determine if there has been a violation of current Minnesota statutes or rules. If a violation has occurred, administrative sanctions (license revocation, fines, etc.) may be taken. The department attempts to secure the payment of claims or obtain refunds for consumers who have been victimized by licensee misconduct. When filing a complaint:
Write, in your own words, the details of the dispute
Include as many details as possible such as dates, what was said, policy and claim numbers, etc.
Provide copies of relevant documents
Include your phone number and return address
Tell policyholders who are filing claims which benefits are available under the policy for the type of claim being filed
State the specific policy provisions under which full or partial payment may be paid or denied
Inform the claimant of any laws or contract provisions concerning time deadlines which must be met during the negotiation process
Acknowledge filing of a claim within ten business days
Advise you of the expected completion date of its investigation
Accept or deny a claim within 60 business days after you have filed all proof of loss information (denial must be in writing).
Supply you with all forms necessary to file a claim within ten days of the date you notified them of the claim
Respond to your correspondence within ten days after receiving notice from you
Inform you of all available benefits or coverages for which you may be eligible under the terms of your policy
Issue a settlement check within five business days of their receipt from you of the executed settlement agreement
Notify you at least 60 days prior to the expiration of your rights under the statute of limitations, of the time limitations affecting your claim.
Delay processing or refuse to settle claims because you have retained a private attorney or adjustor to represent you
Demand that you provide information that is not relevant to the claim under consideration
Remit partial or final payments to you unless those payments are accompanied by an explanation which identifies the payment and settlement items
Threaten to cancel, rescind or not renew a policy in order to induce you into settlement of a claim
Depreciate the value of property if the item is not adversely affected by age, use or obsolescence
Issue checks containing endorsement language which states or implies that acceptance of the check constitutes a final settlement
Make the settlement (when liability is clear) of one portion of the claim contingent on your agreeing to settle the other
Deny a claim...
without first having made a reasonable investigation of the claim
because their insured has requested the claim be denied
because the insured has failed or refused to officially report the claim, unless they have conducted an independent investigation and determined that their client has no liability
or a portion of a claim, unless they inform the insured of the specifics of the policy provision or condition/exclusion upon which their decision is based
Use a "blue book" as the sole basis for determination of value. Claims reimbursement must reflect reasonable value or replacement costs within the insured's or claimant's local market area
Make arbitrary assignment of comparative negligence. Any such assignment must be supported by reasonable evidence and documentation.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has the authority to impose fines of up to $10,000 per violation of these laws, as well as to issue Cease and Desist Orders to prohibit future violations.