- Bryan Williams
Property Claims: A First-Hand Experience with Wandering Toddlers & Water Damage Claims
I really enjoy those Farmers Insurance commercials. You know...the ones that always end with "we know a thing or two, because we've seen a thing or two". WELL - my family recently experienced a similar type of head scratching property claim at our house. I was watching my twin 22-month-old toddlers while they were winding down before going to bed. We were all upstairs & one of them decided to explore our master bedroom & bathroom. Normally this isn't too big of a deal - as our house is fairly child-proofed. But apparently the toilet in our Master Bathroom is not that child-proof (specifically the bidet located on the toilet). After coming out of the bathroom & back into eyesight we proceeded to move on with our normal nighttime routine. Not a care in the world...until we heard water dripping noises coming from our upstairs bathroom. Apparently 5-6 minutes of a Bidet being turned on full blast was enough to flood our bathroom and also a portion of our master bedroom carpet.
My wife & I proceeded to grab every single towel in the house along with a large box fan. We mopped up all the water in sight & then proceeded to blow a box fan at the area of carpet that was soaked for a couple of days. We removed the transition strip between our bathroom & bedroom and pointed the fan towards an area of the carpet that we pulled up. After all this, the water still found its way under the floor & onto the drywall ceiling on the first floor - where our Dining Room is located. We reluctantly decided to file our first ever Homeowner's Insurance claim - even with the knowledge of our high property deductible. Water isn't something to mess around with...as the cost now would be minimal compared to the cost later of a mold issue in the ceiling & flooring.
This whole "wandering toddler claim" has made me want to post a snip-it on how to best handle property claims, including the reporting of that claim, what mitigation strategies to use after a claim occurs & how to work on the same team as your insurance company (versus feeling like you're on different teams). While preventing claims like this from happening are KEY (ie I should have been watching my toddler nonstop while in our bedroom), the immediate aftermath is critical & can even affect whether your insurance company approves or denies the claim.
When dealing with any Property Claim - Homeowner's Insurance or Commercial Property Insurance there are several key steps to take immediately after the claim occurs:
Notify your insurance company immediately (after making sure you and your family are safe, our course)/. If you start fixing or removing items prior to reporting the claim, then your claim may not be fully honored. Call your broker if you don't have your insurance company's direct Claims Reporting number on hand.
Secure the property & prevent additional damage by making all "reasonable & necessary repairs to the property". Make sure to keep an accurate record of these expenses, including costs incurred by you and a professional repair or restoration company. This can include:
Removing standing water
Drying the affected area
Boarding up doors or windows to prevent the ingress of water
Removing Property from the water to prevent further damage.
3. Take photos and/or videos of the damages. Also, don't throw away any damaged items as this will be used by the Insurance Adjustors when deciding the payment amount.
4. Obtain detailed estimates of property damage. Oftentimes, the Insurance Company's adjustor will provide a written-up estimate of the claim payment amount & will pay you this much upfront prior to any work being performed.
*Keep in Mind: The original adjustor's estimate of damages is not necessarily the final claim pay-out but is meant to cover the estimated costs of supplies, contractors & restoration companies. If you believe, after receiving some bids, that the original adjustor's payment amount is TOO LOW then please work with the insurance adjustor prior to signing on the dotted line with the contractor. This will help prevent any issues from arising if, after the work is performed, the insurance company is not in agreement with the final price charged by the contractor.
All in all, this wandering toddler scenario has been a learning experience for our family. Primarily there have been 3 lessons learned:
- Prevention is easier than dealing with the consequences of a preventable Property Claim - both in terms of monetary cost & the cost of my wife not completely trusting me when I say that "I'm watching the toddlers"
- Immediate Action/ Mitigation is key in terms of earning trust with your insurance carrier & saving your property
- NEVER spend more money out of pocket than is needed upfront to secure the property & prevent future damages. You will want to read your insurance policy and discuss with your broker to determine if your property claim is indeed a covered cause of loss before signing on the dotted line with a contractor for a $50k bid.