How to Battle Your Insurer

When you face your insurer and are seeking a claim, it does not have to be like David facing Goliath. It can be challenging to get your insurer to pay what is due, but there are things you can do to make sure you get your fair share.

1. Prepare your package:

The claims that carry the most strength are those with a decent amount of documentation. Take pictures or make drawings of your home, and get reliable estimates. List everything and put it in a clear demand package.

According to Amy Bach with, you need to document as much as you can about what you lost and the replacement cost for those items. Also, be sure to include an estimate of the amount you will need to pay for living expenses and rent.

Send your completed package to the insurance company with a deadline on when you want them to respond to you. A month is a reasonable deadline if you have everything in the package, including things like the contents of your home and your dwelling costs.

If your estimate only includes the home’s dwelling, however, you can readily expect a deadline of 14 business days, according to Ms. Bach. It is your responsibility to be proactive to ensure that you get the money you are entitled to receive.

2. Seek authority:

If the insurance company denies your coverage or only pays part of it, you will need to get more help. Go to the person who is above the person you have been dealing with at the insurance company. The adjuster that comes to your home is usually one of the lowest on the totem pole, according to Bach. These adjusters are limited to a certain amount of dollars.

Ms. Bach says, "They may only be able to cut a check for $5,000 to $10,000." If that"s not enough, you may need to go to their supervisor. You can ask the adjuster what their settlement authority is. If it"s too low, you are wasting time working with that person. Talk to those in senior management positions. Use polite assertiveness when trying to get what you deserve.

3. Get outside help:

If you are not getting what you need, get outside help. Start by filing a complaint with the department of insurance in your state. You may find that you need to hire a lawyer or public adjuster in order to get a fair settlement.

A public adjuster will be able to negotiate a damage claim for you. They are paid a percentage of the amount they recover for you. You are able to negotiate that percentage, but in general it ranges between 5 and 12 percent. The National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters at is a good resource. Use caution with aggressive public adjusters that are actively seeking clients right after a disaster.

Your other option is to hire a lawyer, but this can get expensive. Lawyers charge between $120 and $250 an hour. However, some lawyers will agree to work on a contingency basis. This means they are only paid if they win the case, and they are paid around 33% of what they win for you.

4. Sign with caution:

If the check you get is less than you expected, do not be quick to sign it. While you do need the money, you may be signing away the right to fight for more money. Also, refuse any checks that say "full" or "final settlement." Instead, make sure that everything is clearly spelled out and that you have clear communication between you and your insurance company.