Filing and Defending Your Theft and Vandalism Insurance Claim

On behalf of Smith Jadin Johnson, PLLC posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

Property insurance is something that anyone owning property should have. Insurable property includes your home, vehicle, and personal possessions that you own. Property insurance is intended to compensate you for the loss of your property in event of an accidental and unintended event to help you put your life back together. Typical losses are related to natural disasters, fires and weather-related events but some of the most common kinds of property losses are from theft and vandalism.

Property Claim Acceptance Challenges

Not every property insurance claim is accepted, and your claim is subject to the loss provisions and exclusions stated in your policy. Your claim may be properly denied when the loss is not covered by your policy. However, improper denial of a claim may subject an insurer to additional penalties for bad faith.

When your claim is accepted, there are often disagreements over the value of the property or the cost to replace or repair that property. Insurance adjusters may undervalue your loss and insurance companies almost never want to shell out the full value of the damage or missing items. Some insurance companies are helpful and supportive but all too often, their policies and agents do everything in their power to discredit your claim, downplay damage, and undervalue the items that have gone missing. Thousands of homeowners and renters every year are denied claims or are forced to accept less than they need to recover from a home invasion, theft, and or vandalization.

To be fair, the insurance companies aren’t the only ones who play dirty. One of the reasons it is so difficult to get your theft and vandalism claims accepted is how common it is for opportunists and amateur con artists to falsify their reports in an attempt to get more money than the loss is worth. Some people fabricate burglaries and vandalism while others simply try to inflate the amount they lost in a real incident. This has put insurance investigators on their toes and is part of why you will need to be so incredibly thorough both defending your home and proving your claim.

What You Need for a Theft and Vandalism Claim

You have a duty to cooperate with your insurer and provide it with the information requested by the insurer as it investigates and adjusts your claim. The best thing you can do for your claim is to have complete irrefutable evidence of the property you owned and its location before and after the incident. The insurance company will be looking for signs of deception both to defend their own bottom line and to catch con artists making false claims. Therefore, your goal is to make it abundantly clear that your claim is legitimate. While most of us don’t keep a constant inventory of all our worldly possessions, modern technology has made it easier to prove ownership, purchase dates, and to maintain records of items before and after they are stolen or damaged.

Your insurance company will likely be looking for an inventory of your property before they approve your claim. By having this information ready from the beginning, you can speed up the process and turn their attention toward verification instead of trying to ‘catch you out’. When investigating the missing or damaged property, your insurer will want to know when, where, and how much you paid for the property. They will also need proof that you were in possession and owned each item you claim. For property damage, they may also look for proof that the damage was caused on the date and in the manner you claim.

When and Where the Items Were Purchased

Insurance claims used to revolve around physical receipts, but let’s face it. No one keeps receipts anymore. Even if A) you bought the item in person and B) you got a receipt, no doubt it was in the trash without a single glance. However, almost all transactions today are recorded digitally. If you bought the damaged or lost items on a debit or credit card, with PayPal, or online, there will be digital records.

Your insurance company will want a look at these records. You can pull up your bank records, an email receipt for an online purchase, and you might even be able to check with the store or business where the purchase was made. If you’re not exactly sure, approximate and check your own financial records.

If an item was a gift, inherited, or even if it was in the home when you moved in, be clear and forthright about this. Your items still have value even if you didn’t buy them.

Cost of Each Damaged or Stolen Item

One of the most commonly falsified aspect of property insurance claims is the value of items damaged or lost. Therefore, insurance companies will want any proof available that your items are worth what you claim, minus some value for age if it’s been a few years since the initial purchase. In the digital age, the price of goods and how much they are sold for at specific venues at specific times is fairly easy to track down and this is good news for both you and the insurance company. If you don’t remember exactly how much you paid, check your records or use the approximate price of the item based on what the store was charging when you bought it. Simple enough.

For items that were not paid for, prepare your claim with your own clear and reasonable assessment of their value. Calculate the current market value, what your items would have sold for before the theft or vandalism and include this assessment in your claim instead of records of the initial cost.

Proof of Possession – That the Items Were In Your Home

Sometimes people claim to have lost more items than they had to begin with or insurance companies accuse them of doing so if no clear evidence can be found of previous possession. If, for instance, a friend moved away and left you with an expensive stereo system you never bought that was then stolen, it can be easy to claim that you never had it in the first place. This is where preexisting photos and video of your home before the incident are useful, as well as telltale signs like differently colored spots on the wall where speakers or art used to hang.

If you don’t have pictures, check with friends and family to see if they have any photos or videos taken in your home that include the items that were damaged or stolen before the incident. Taking pictures and video immediately after the incident can show the path your home intruder took, what they upset, what they knocked over, and can show either a pattern of damage or focus on where you claim missing items to have been.

Proof of Ownership for Any Involved Vehicles

Finally, property insurance can include vehicles parked in the garage or driveway, but often only if they legally belong to the policyholder. In order to keep people from claiming vehicles that don’t exist or damage to vehicles that don’t belong to them, you will need to produce proof of ownership for any vehicles included in your claim. Fortunately, this last requirement is easy to achieve as vehicle ownership is almost always very clearly documented.

If you have recently experienced an incidence of vandalism or theft on your property, it is vital that you properly prepare and defend your property insurance claim. This is your best way to ensure that you get the compensation you need to repair and replace what was damaged or taken. If your insurance company is not giving you a fair chance or is refusing to honor your claim, contact us today. We can help you get the policy coverage that you were promised and have been paying for.