Bob Scott is a senior partner at Advocate Law Group P.C. His background is in insurance and he has represented policyholders and litigated against insurance companies for over 40 years.
He’s learned that after devastating damage to their home – whether due to a hurricane, tornado, wildfire or other disaster, most people are overwhelmed by the loss and have a hard time remembering everything they owned and its condition when and if it ever comes time to make an insurance claim.
As a result policyholders often shortchange themselves by tens of thousands of dollars, when making an insurance claim. Having a current record of what you have and its condition does not enable an unscrupulous insurance company or adjuster to overlook items or falsely downgrade their condition and thus deny you full and proper payment for many items that should be fully paid for by their insurance.
Here is an easy breakdown of what to do now to prepare for any potential homeowners or other insurance claims, well before any loss arises, whereever you live.
Make a Record of the Interior of Your Home
You want to be able to show proof of what you owned before the storm or other disaster hit. The best and easiest way to do that is by using your cell phone camera to make a short video tour of your home. (If your phone does not have enough video space, take as many still photos of your possessions as possible.)
- Start recording at the front door. Make sure the lights are on so the recording is clear.
- Steadily walk through the home, going from room to room. Announce each room and the date as you enter. (Rather than making one very long video it’s often best to make a series of short ones, one right after the other – so they each can be easily emailed when you are done.)
- In each room, open EVERY door, closet, drawer, and cabinet. Record images of as many possessions – including clothing, dishes, silverware, books, antiques, as possible. Don’t forget the garage and attic (or crawl spaces if used for storage.)
- Capture up-close images of possessions of significant value such as heirlooms, artwork, collectibles. Describe those you think may be valuable in as much detail as possible. Say “This is a Tiffany lamp from my grandmother,” “This is my grandfather clock from Germany,” or “This is my Craftsman tool set.”
Make a Record of the Exterior of Your Home
Property losses due to storms, hurricanes, wildfires or other damage can be significant on the outside of the home, too. Use your cell phone to record a short exterior property tour just as you did for the interior property and possessionss.
Walk all the way around the property and record images of all:
- Tress, shrubbery, and plants
- Sheds, water features, decking, and fencing
- Lawn & patio furniture, and BBQ grills
- Above and below ground pools and trampolines
- Outdoor lighting & décor
Make a Video Record of all Vehicles
If you must evacuate, one or more vehicles may get left behind.
Capture images of:
- Vehicle exteriors and interiors
- Close-up photo of the license plates
- This also includes motorcycles, boats, and trailers
Insurance Documents and Broker/Agent Names
- Add your insurance agent/broker/claims office as contacts in your cell phone.
- Include your insurance policy number in the notes section.
- If you are unable to grab a printed copy of your insurance policy during a hurricane evacuation, you will at least have your policy number readily available when you call your insurance company to start your claim.
Once you have the videos and/or photos of your personal property taken, email them to yourself – and a trusted family member or two (just in case your phone is lost or damaged) — so you can easily find them and forward them to your insurance company when and if you have to file a claim.
- Here is an example of good email subject line:
- Sally Jones – 1111 Smart Lane, Any City, Any State – June 22, 2022 Personal Property Video & Photos
Each year you acquire and get rid of more personal property than you realize. You may even relocate or buy a new car.
In order to be prepared and be able to document your possessions , make it at least an annual habit to create an updated record of the interior and exterior of your home. You will be relieved you took the time to do this if you ever have to file an insurance claim after a hurricane, tornado, wildfire or other disaster.