Nearing Retirement

How to File an Insurance Claim

Insurance is like a security alarm system. You may sleep better knowing you have it, but you hope it will never be activated. If you have insurance, however, it is helpful to know how to properly file a claim.

Under any insurance policy, the first step is to notify your insurance agent that you have experienced a loss. Your agent can tell you what to do next and send along any necessary claim forms to be filled out.

The second step is to fill out those forms and submit them as quickly as possible. In the case of a life insurance claim, you may have to submit the policy document itself, along with the claim form and a death certificate. Insurance companies generally act promptly to pay claims, but they cannot act until the paperwork is complete. So, doing your share can help expedite the process.

Although your agent can help you with the details, make sure you store policies and any related information close at hand. For example, life insurance policies generally should not be kept in a safe-deposit box. In most states, boxes are temporarily sealed upon the death of the owner. Although an executor can gain access to the box to locate a will and insurance policies, the need to do so could slow down the process for receiving funds. Also, if you own homeowners or renters insurance, keep an updated inventory of your possessions, along with any documentation relating to their worth. This can help you substantiate the value of your belongings in the event of a covered loss.

With certain types of insurance, such as health or automobile insurance, remember that some companies pay claims directly, and others only reimburse you after you have paid the bill. Payment procedures are determined by the in-house policy of your insurance company, standard industry practice, and the terms of the insurance policy.

Some policies also require a deductible amount that may result in you receiving a bill following a covered loss. Once that amount is paid, there may be an existing co-payment feature whereby the insurance company pays a designated percentage of all covered claims, and you are responsible for paying the balance up to a specified amount. Carefully review your individual policies for the specific deductible or co-payment amounts that apply to your coverage.

Insurance coverage can help mitigate financial loss in difficult circumstances. However, it is important to fully understand your insurance policies and to be aware of the steps you need to take in order to file a claim.