For commercial property owners, recovering from property damage can be a long, drawn-out process. Dealing with an insurance company on top of that can make the situation even more stressful, which could lead to missteps throughout the claims process. In order to mitigate these potential stressors, having a commercial property damage claims checklist on hand can help to ensure no crucial steps are missed if and when you need to file a property damage claim.
What a Commercial Property Damage Claims Checklist Should Include
When a commercial property is damaged, dealing with an insurance company can cause a lot of confusion for business owners. This is often due to the claims process being rather cumbersome and time-consuming, leaving property owners unsure of where they stand with their claims. Despite this, several key steps can be taken both before and after a covered event occurs to make the claims process a much smoother experience. A commercial property damage claims checklist should include the following items:
Before Damage Occurs
- Take photographs of the property: While it may seem like something to only do after the damage has occurred, having photographs on hand of how the property looked at its best will be important in proving the extent of future potential damage. New photos should be taken each year or after any alterations have been made to the property.
- Back up critical information: Ensuring all the business’s records, such as rental and maintenance records, and communication systems are backed up at an offsite location is incredibly important when considering the threat of property damage. This will allow the business to be able to retrieve information regarding clients, finances, and other documents crucial to maintaining ongoing operations should the property damage leave the premises unusable.
- Create a disaster prep plan: Discussing a plan of action for what to do if a natural disaster threatens your business can help mitigate some damage and alleviate concerns before damage occurs. This could include cutting master keys to all areas of the property, ensuring any furniture or potentially hazardous items are moved inside and having an up-to-date emergency contact list.
- Review the insurance policy: Obtaining and reviewing the current insurance policy can help property owners understand their rights and obligations well before damage occurs. This also provides an opportunity to learn what types of damage are and are not covered under the policy. Having the assistance of an experienced commercial insurance coverage attorney can aid in understanding the terms of your policy well before you need to use it.
After Damage Has Occurred
- Document all damage: Taking photos and videos of all the damage before cleaning up, filing an insurance claim, or making temporary repairs can help keep the claims process moving. Insurance companies will likely request these items once a claim has been filed, so already having them on hand can keep your claim moving along smoothly. Further, every item has a potential value, so keeping damaged items rather than throwing anything out is useful until the items can be inspected.
- File a commercial insurance claim: Once the damage has been well documented, property owners should file an insurance claim with the insurer. Once the carrier receives the claim and reviews the documentation, it will send an adjuster to review and determine the extent of the damage. It’s important to not make permanent repairs to the property during this time so the adjuster can make an accurate assessment of the damage sustained. Repairing property damage before an adjuster assessment can lead to the claim being denied.
- Protect the property from further damage: While permanent repairs should be avoided before filing an insurance claim and having an adjuster inspection, property owners should take measures to protect property from further damage loss. This can include putting up tarps over a damaged roof or broken windows, removing wet drywall and carpeting to prevent mold, turning off utilities, securing valuables, and/or boarding up openings to protect the premise from unwanted entries.
- Document all activities and expenses: Maintain a log of all activities and save all receipts for any temporary repairs and abnormal or additional expenses. This documentation should be presented to the insurance carrier to be reimbursed. Additionally, keeping written records of the correspondence with the insurance company can help in the event the claims process is taking longer than normal according to the state’s required time constraints on insurance claims.
While having a commercial property damage claims checklist in place can help property owners mitigate damage and timely file a claim, the insurance company can still choose to act in bad faith for its own financial benefit. When this happens, business owners should consult with experienced legal counsel.
Commercial Insurance Coverage Attorneys
Property damage can set a business back in many ways, often leaving owners frustrated and unsure of how to rebuild effectively. Unfortunately, even if you take all the proper steps, insurance companies can still take advantage of policyholders. At Raizner Law, we know the many ways insurers attempt to delay, grossly underpay, or even deny valid claims. If your commercial property has been damaged and you need assistance with a claim, we can help. Contact our office today for more information.
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