Your Ultimate Guide to Insurance Claims

This was the view outside my patio door Friday evening.

Your Ultimate Guide to Insurance ClaimsYour Ultimate Guide to Insurance Claims


I didn’t get to watch the news coverage (instead I was LIVING it), but my little town of Bellefontaine, Ohio was recently treated to 80 mph straight line winds, followed by torrential rain.

I was at my office, Alan Galvez Insurance,  when it started at approximately 3 pm.   The sky turned pitch black. And then the wind came. I watched out the front window while building debris was blown into the street and trees were bent backward. Ungodly is really only the way to describe it.

The wind blew so hard that it blew the front door open. I was firmly convinced that Auntie Em and her house would come spiraling by any minute……

Then the rain started- sheets of rain, moving sideways. Oh, it gets better…….Our lights flickered and then the whole office went dark. We actually had a customer in the office trying to get an auto policy, so we contacted the company directly to have them finish issuing it. Out came the candles and flashlights as well.

We got the first call shortly thereafter, about a downtown building that had lost most of its roof and a substantial amount of brick. The debris was on the sidewalk and in the street, interfering with traffic. There was also a significant amount of rain pouring through the hole and into the building. I ran over there and inspected the damage and told the owner what to do in order of priority: seal the roof, clear the road and sidewalk of debris, and suck out the water.

But you know what I also discovered as the claims phone calls started coming in? Several customers were under the impression that they had to talk to us first before they took any action.


So in order to clear up any mistaken information or incorrect assumptions, I’ve listed several universal truths about insurance claims, regardless of the company you’re insured with. Study them, pass them along, share them, bookmark this post, commit them to memory, tattoo them on your arm. I don’t care. Your insurance company will thank you for taking these to heart. And I thank you for reading.

You Have the Authority to do whatever is necessary to prevent further damage. No you do not have to call us first.

If there are holes, get them patched. If rain has come in through the holes and you have standing water, call a water damage restoration specialist and have them beat feet to get your water sucked up and flooring dried out (and hopefully saved, but not always possible). Our two go-to companies locally for water damage are ServiceMaster and ServPro (although I believe there are franchises located nationally). Both do an EXCELLENT job. They have the tools, skills and expertise to get the job done right.

If there’s debris that’s causing a safety hazard, clean it up. I think you get my point.  Besides the insurance policy says you have an obligation. So do it.  Do not wait. Do not Pass Go.

A homeowners policy typically covers damage caused by trees but only if the tree hits a covered structure.

Important lesson there, but if the tree just simply falls and lands in your yard or the street, there is no coverage under an unendorsed homeowners policy. Insurance companies typically offer “storm cleanup” or “debris removal coverage” via a variety of add-ons. $500 coverage is typical, but I’ve seen $1,000 as well. Premium is peanuts compared to what you’re getting (maybe $10-$25 for the year????) and gives you some relief for the expenses incurred. Definitely worth consideration.

And while we’re on the subject of trees…….

It Makes No Difference who a tree belongs to- If it’s on your property, it’s YOUR responsibility. Period.

If it’s on your house, it’s doubly important to get it removed ASAP. Don’t pick fights with your neighbors, don’t argue about who’s responsibility it is. Just.  Get.  It.  Done!   We just had this situation with a client. A neighbor’s tree fell onto his garage. There had been prior discussions between the neighbors that the tree was dead, yet the tree owner did nothing to prevent the situation from happening. There were some heated discussions and we had to calm them both down.

For situations like this, let YOUR insurance take care of you. They will pursue others if those others are legally responsible for the damage. This is called subrogation, and your insurance company will seek reimbursement from the other insurance company for damages paid. If the other person is in fact found liable, all damages can hopefully be recovered, including your deductible. You can read about subrogation in more detail via a previous post.

You can also read more about damage caused by trees in this post.

If you have your insurance through an agent (versus direct with insurance company), we WILL get you back to normal a hell of a lot faster

I don’t care what the Flo’s, the GEICO’s and the Esurance’s of the world say- Insurance agents get the job done better and faster. We have the network of people we can call to get repairs made very quickly and get you back to normal faster. Real life examples from the recent events here:

  • A female client, at home alone with her husband out of town, suffered damage to her roof that left a gaping hole. I called one of my contractor clients Saturday and he was there Saturday night to patch the hole.
  • A client had his electric service ripped off his house. I called an electrician client and he was there first thing in the morning to inspect and make temporary repairs so the clients would have power until a permanent fix can be made.
  • We called our roofing contractor and sent him out to tarp various holes immediately.


Those other companies simply CAN’T do what we do.

We also connected other customers with names & phone numbers for other contractors we trust, including carpenters, tree service companies and HVAC. See, we only align ourselves with others we trust, so if we give you the name, that’s as good as a 4 star review. We know that the repairs will be done well, with little hassle and with the utmost professionalism. And THAT’s gold.

And if those “OTHER” companies say this doesn’t matter, they’re lying. Does getting your claim fixed as quickly as possible matter to you?

Loss of refrigerated/frozen foods is usually not a covered item under a homeowners policy

Again, most companies offer an endorsement that gives you coverage. $500 coverage is pretty typical and costs very little for the year ($10 maybe?)  Again, worth some consideration.

Insurance Agents often have claims check writing authority and can issue you a check on the spot

This is especially helpful if you’ve fronted a lot of money and need reimbursement relatively quickly. My office is an example- we have limited check writing authority and can take care of smaller claims, like loss of refrigerated/frozen foods and debris removal. Our companies prefer we handle the smaller claims so they can use their resources for the more serious ones. So, I’ll be writing checks over the next few weeks. But it will help lots of folks begin the rebuilding process. So, ask your agents if they have authority to write claims checks  and if so, of you can take advantage of that service.

Out of Town Contractors will swoop into your community and rip you off

I’ve seen tons of trucks from Tennessee, Georgia, and even Florida. They are here for one reason only- to take your money and NOT repair your damage. Yeah, I’m sure some of you are out there saying, “But, not all of them are dishonest.” Unfortunately, in my 16 years, I have yet to see any out of town contractor make good on their promises. FACT.

And they will work hard to convince you. They will use fear, coercion, and even sweet talk. They will require all the money up front. They may even not provide a way to contact them.

Run.  As fast as you can.  Because the agreement is between you and the contractor. And if they rip you off, insurance is in no way involved (meaning you’re out of luck).

You can access additional claims resources, as well as view a video of my agency’s promise to you in regard to claims handling  on our website.  Questions? Comments? I’ll leave you with a few additional pictures I took….




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About Carrie Reynolds

During the day, I'm an Ohio Insurance Goddess, an agent, and a writer. At night, I turn into Supermom. My passions are marketing, writing, and making insurance easier for everyone to understand.