How to File a Business Insurance Claim

Three Parts:Documenting the DamageMaking a ClaimAppealing the Insurer’s Estimate

When an accident or crime strikes your business, you should contact your business insurer immediately. You should also quickly start documenting the damage you have suffered. Gather proof of lost business income and property damage. Your insurer will either send an adjuster out to your business or send you a form to complete. The key to making a successful business insurance claim is to be organized about it.

Part 1
Documenting the Damage

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    Call the police. You should immediately report to the police any crimes such as theft, burglary or vandalism .[1] If you don’t know the non-emergency number for local law enforcement, call the operator and ask to be connected to the police.
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    Read your insurance policy. It will explain the steps to take in filing a claim. It might be faster simply to call your insurance agent. S/he will be able to guide you in the initial steps. [2]
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    Preserve damaged property. Don't immediately throw out equipment or supplies that are damaged. Try to preserve them instead so that your insurance agent or adjuster can view them. [3]
    • You should take pictures of the damage. Don’t haul away any debris until your agent has seen it. [4]
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    Get estimates for repairs. You might need to rebuild part of your business or replace equipment. You should get estimates from qualified contractors or appraisers. [5]
    • Your insurer might be able to provide a referral to a reliable contractor if you don’t know whom to contact. [6]
    • Try to get at least two estimates for any repair work. [7]
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    Keep track of your expenses. If you need to make repairs, keep detailed receipts so that you can show them to your agent. [8] Keep receipts for the following, which may be compensated by your insurer: [9]
    • The added costs of conducting business from an alternate location.
    • Expenses, such as advertising, that have continued while your business has been suspended.
    • Damage to vehicles if you need them to operate your business.
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    Collect your business records. Your insurance may compensate you for lost business income caused by the incident. You will need to prove to the insurer how much you lost while your business was shut down. This means keeping very detailed business records. For example, you should gather the following: [10]
    • Annual income tax returns
    • Monthly sales tax returns
    • Budgets
    • Financial statements
    • Business contracts
    • Any other documents showing income before or after the incident

Part 2
Making a Claim

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    Contact your insurance agent. There should be a phone number listed on your insurance policy. Call as soon as possible. [11] Do not begin cleaning up damage before contacting your agent. If you do, the insurer might not be able to see the full extent of the damage. [12]
    • Tell the agent that you need to make a claim, and briefly describe the loss you have suffered. Have your policy number available.
    • Make sure the insurer has your contact information, including cell phone and email.
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    Meet with an insurance adjuster. The insurer might send out an adjuster to inspect the damage. Insurance adjusters can specialize, so you may have to meet with more than one.
    • For example, one adjuster might specialize in structural damage to your building, while another will inspect damage to personal property or inventory. [13]
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    Complete a proof-of-loss form. You may be sent a form to fill out instead of meeting with an adjuster.[14] The form will ask for information about your loss. Be sure to print legibly, and complete the form as soon as possible. Call your agent if you have any questions.
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    Communicate in writing. It is always best to communicate with your insurance agent in writing, even if it's only email. You want a hard copy of any communication. It is very easy to be misunderstood, and you will want written documentation of what was said.
    • If you talk to someone over the phone, you should summarize the key points of the conversation in an email to that person. You can ask him/her to confirm your understanding of the conversation. [15]
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    Stay organized. Have a folder in which you keep all relevant documents and information related to your insurance claim. You could also scan each document to create a digital copy. Be sure to hold on to the following: [16]
    • Insurance claim number
    • The adjuster's contact information
    • Photographs or video of the damage
    • Receipts
    • Repair bills and estimates
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    Check the status of your claim. Your insurer may let you check the status of your claim using an online account. With the account you can access your claim information, upload documents, or correspond with your claims adjuster. [17]
    • You also might be able to register for direct deposit of insurance proceeds.

Part 3
Appealing the Insurer’s Estimate

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    Write to your insurance company. You might be unhappy with how they handled the claim. [18] For example, it is not uncommon for an insurer to give you a low initial estimate of damages. Register an objection in writing.
    • Explain why you think the estimate is too low. Make reference to your documentation (receipts, appraisal, etc.).
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    Bring a formal appeal. Insurers typically have an appeals process you can use. A neutral third party will listen to the dispute and make a final decision about how much you should be paid. [19] Ask your insurer about this process.
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    Complain to your state’s Department of Insurance. In the U.S. each state has an agency that oversees insurers and collects consumer complaints about them. You can find your state’s agency by typing “[name of state] department of insurance” into a search engine. Contact them and describe the treatment you received. [20]
    • The department should have a complaint form that you can fill out. [21] Alternately, you may have to create an account and submit information online.
    • After receiving your complaint the department will forward it to the insurer. The latter will have a certain amount of time to respond.
    • The department will review your complaint and the insurer’s response. If the department finds that the insurer has not followed the law in its dealings with you, it will request corrective action from the insurer.
    • The department will send you a written explanation of its findings. [22]
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    Think about suing. You might be able to bring a “bad faith” claim against your insurer. An insurer commits bad faith when it fails to investigate a claim in a timely manner or if it denies a claim without reasonable basis. [23]
    • Applicable law varies from state to state. Talk with a lawyer in your state for more information about whether you can bring a bad-faith lawsuit.
    • For more information, see Sue Your Insurance Company.
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    Find a lawyer. If you think you have a claim against your insurer, schedule a consultation with an attorney. You can find one through the referral program of your local or state bar association. [24]
    • Once you have the name of an attorney, call to schedule a half-hour consultation.
    • Take all of your documentation to the consultation. Ask the lawyer whether you have a strong enough case to bring a lawsuit.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Finance and Business