Braxton Hicks contractions, signs of false labour, hit me like a freight train two weeks ago. Never having been through childbirth before, my fiancé and I assumed that this was the “big event,” so I grabbed a change of clothes and made my way down the street to the car. In my frantic state, with my fiancé thousands of kilometres away in Edmonton but joining me via WhatsApp, I was planning to drive myself to our assigned hospital, which is only seven minutes away from our house in Toronto.
As I approached the car, very much out of breath and highly distracted, my blood pressure spiked as I realized that the roof of our vehicle was collapsed in on itself, glass was strewn everywhere on the street and my brand new baby car seat was crushed. The “I’m sorry” note on the car said that during regular tree trimming, the city had accidentally dropped a massive branch on our vehicle.
Needless to say, I had to Uber to the hospital, where they monitored me for a few hours and sent me home saying the baby wasn’t ready yet. The next day, when I’d chilled out, I began a highly organized claims process with our auto insurer, and here are the five steps I took.
Don’t rush: When you rush to make an insurance claim, you will have errors. Move through your claim methodically by first reading the fine print for what you are and are not covered. Second, to the best of your ability, understand what happened to cause the claim — fire, flood, burglary — and this may involve the police’s interpretation, too. Third, calm down before making the call to start the claims process, as a clear head will allow you to answer questions properly.
Keep a current inventory of what’s in your house and car: In the worse-case scenario, you might need to claim the entire contents of your home or what was in your car. But, without a list, it’s easy to forget that mirror in storage, the parking permit or a piece of family jewelry. Using your favourite cloud program — and yes, you need to put this on a cloud in case your computer hard drive gets destroyed — create an inventory of your home. Personally, I use the room-by-room approach, listing everything that’s in the bedrooms, kitchen, living room and so on. For my car, it’s a touch easier because I list what’s in the truck, back seat, front seats and compartments.
Complement the inventory list with pictures and receipts: Having experienced the unfortunate worst-case a few years ago, where the content and structure of my previous home in Calgary were destroyed by a fire, the inventory list that I had kept up to date was the reason my claim was efficiently processed. But to ensure that I received the precise replacement value of each item, I’d taken it one step further and had pictures of, and receipts for, the significant items in my home, and improvements I’d made to the home (anything over $500 in value) — again, all of this was loaded up in the cloud. The same principle applied to my recently destroyed car — the bill of sale, interior and exterior pics were all in my cloud storage.
Stick to the facts when filing a claim: Insurance adjusters are just like police detectives. They know when something isn’t quite right because they are trained to get to the truth of every claim in an effort to protect their companies from fraud. So, if you’re thinking that your car accident or house flood is an opportunity to squeeze money from your insurer, think again. It’s best to stick to the facts of what you know to be true, and don’t make any assumptions because assumptions can be misleading and can negatively impact your claim.
Negotiate with your insurer using hard evidence: If your car is being written off, and they’ve offered you $10,000 for it when you’re absolutely sure it will take $25,000 to replace it, go back to your insurer with proof of the replacement value.
I’m always advocating for readers to pay attention to the small expenses because they add up, but when it comes to insurance, don’t cut corners to save a measly $5 or $10 on your monthly insurance payments. It’s way too risky. Take a moment to review if your policies are relative to your needs and shop around.