On May 23, 2022, Wheeler, DiUlio & Barnabei hosted the fifth installment of their 12 part webinar series, The Perfect Claim. The goal of this series is to discuss the entire claims process from start to finish so viewers can learn how to resolve claims more efficiently.

This webinar, Documenting the Loss – It’s Not About What You Know, But What You Can Show, focused on how to properly document a loss. Partner Anthony DiUlio discussed why documentation matters and how to properly collect and submit documentation for a loss.

Why Documentation Matters

Years ago, resolving a claim could have been completed with simple handshake deals. Nowadays, carriers are often required to justify and document all payments and proofs of a loss when submitting a claim.

Although maintaining a good relationship between all relevant parties as much as possible is still great practice, relationships only get you so far. Documentation will take your claim one large step further.

Documentation is crucial to submitting a claim as it can be very difficult to refute good documentation. Unless the claim involves opinion, documentation can tell a story about what happened to the property at hand over time. Having documentation is one thing; but, having proper, step-by-step documentation can go a long way in successfully presenting a claim.

What to Focus On in Round One

As mentioned in a previous webinar, the first inspection is the most important as it gives the individual a fresh opportunity to present their claim. View part 3 of this webinar series, First Impressions and First Inspections, to find a full first inspection checklist as well as what makes a good first impression.

One of the preliminary, yet most crucial elements of first submitting a claim are photos or videos proving and documenting the loss. Take as many pictures as you can that are relevant to the damage at hand. The photos you take and submit to the insurance company should also follow best practices. Start by taking wide shots of the area of damage and then take close-ups of the areas of the room and the images of the damage.

For example, if you are submitting for water damage in the corner of a room:

  1. First, take a photo of the whole wall with the surrounding areas visible.
  2. Second, narrow in on the damage. Make sure there is good lighting and that the location of the damage is clearly identifiable.
  3. Third, if before photos are available, provide them as well as these will help the case.

Setting Up for Coverage with the Insurance Companies

There are three important steps to take to set up coverage with the insurance companies:

  1. Document the structure
  2. Document the contents
  3. Present the documentation

Documenting the Structure

First, when documenting the structure, it is necessary to “do the work so the adjusters don’t have to.” If you can provide substantial evidence and proof, adjusters are more likely to reach a similar conclusion as the insured. In the end, you want adjusters to reach the same conclusion as you by showing them the story of the damage, not by merely telling them your reasoning.

There are different tools for measuring damage to the structure. Three common tools include:

  1. Lasers
  2. Matterports
  3. Tape measurers

Tape measurers and lasers are more old-fashioned but still provide adequate information to support your claim. However, matterport or similar tool is the best option for measuring damage.

Matterport uses a camera to photograph and measure the room for you almost automatically. A tool like this is harder to refute and will help support your claim.

Next, there are several ways to properly document the loss. Again, as the person submitting the claim, you want to tell a cohesive story of what happened. Here are some important documentation aspects to collect and include in your claim:

  • Photos
  • Moisture maps
  • Thermals
  • Soot testings
  • Invasive looks or testings
  • Correspondence with suppliers
  • Proof of damages
  • Narratives
  • Xactimate explanations
  • Written notes from outside experts (i.e. roofers, engineers, remediation, etc.)
  • Literature (i.e. books, blogs, etc.)

Document the Contents

While the above are all helpful to prove and document the structural damage, how you document contents will also support your claim and greatly increase the value of the claim as a whole. Excel is a very powerful yet easy-to-use tool to create a spreadsheet with all necessary content information. For example, include the item name and number, a description of the item, the condition (rated 1-10 or1 -100) of the item, a link to the replacement item, the price of the item, and a link to the photo of the item. All of this makes for a great document to present a contents claim. Remember, do the work for the carrier that they don’t want to do. If you have a good enough report, they won’t waste time or money doing it themselves.

Present the Documentation

Lastly, how your present the documentation to the carrier is essential. Documentation allows the carrier to have a baseline for payment. Follow these four strategies for presenting to the carrier:

  • Do it early
  • Do it often
  • Give the carriers what they are asking for (so long as it is relevant)
  • Pose questions

The ultimate key to getting results is persistence. Better results are also more likely if you can convince the carrier of the claim amount before their denial letter comes out.

In other words, it is harder to convince a carrier to overturn their previous decisions. As the insured, you want the carrier to reach the conclusion themselves, but follow up with questions to ensure that you are arriving at the same endpoint.

Still have questions about how to file a claim? Contact Wheeler, DiUlio & Barnabei to learn more.