How to Negotiate with Property Damage Insurance Claims Adjusters

hire a attorney to help with negotiating insurance settlement property damage

Homeowners’ insurance requirements vary by state, but if you have a mortgage, chances are you will be required to carry coverage. This insurance is for your mortgage provider’s protection as much as yours. After all, if your house goes up in flames, it may be difficult for the bank or other mortgage provider to recover their money if you don’t have insurance to cover the loss. However, it can be difficult to navigate the complexities of negotiating your insurance settlement after property damage.

Homeowners’ insurance is supposed to protect you in the event of a loss. However, insurers are always looking for a way to undercut the value of your property. They are looking out for their bottom line more than anything else, and this can leave you more frustrated than ever.

Our property damage lawyers at Steinger, Greene & Feiner are intimately familiar with insurance companies’ tricks and tactics to give you a lowball offer. It may seem like you have no options once they offer their settlement. Luckily, we know how to negotiate with insurance claims adjusters to get fair compensation for the damage done to your home.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you negotiate:

1. Understand the Policy You Bought (Or Was Bought For You)

When you buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, it will typically cover fire, lightning strikes, and other natural disasters (except floods and earthquakes; those usually need to be bought separately). It will also cover personal belongings, like jewelry and collectibles. You may also purchase additional coverage for trees and shrubs on your property, and you may also buy coverage for detached buildings like garages, sheds, and gazebos.

It’s important to note that if you don’t buy a homeowner’s insurance policy on your own, your mortgage provider may buy a policy for you and charge you for it.

When you file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance provider, it’s essential to know what’s covered. For instance, if you have a $3,000 ruby pendant that was lost in a house fire, but you didn’t list it on your policy, your insurance company won’t reimburse you for it. More importantly, knowing what’s covered gives you a solid leg to stand on for negotiating your settlement with the insurance claims adjuster after property damage.

2. Understand What’s In Your Claim and Settlement Offer

When you receive your settlement offer, chances are it’s going to be lower than what it should be. We mentioned that insurers send lowball offers because it helps their bottom line, but there’s another reason they do it: They plan on you rejecting the first offer, so they line up a more “reasonable” one.

Ask the adjuster to break down the claim when you get your offer. They may point out different language in your policy that excludes certain damages; have them clarify those exclusions in simple English. Keep records of everything the claims adjuster tells you, and gather documents that provide evidence as to why the offer is too low (for instance, a quote from an independent contractor for repairing the damage to your home.

It would be best if you were also prepared to question the claims adjuster and negotiate with insurance adjusters in the event your claim is outright denied. Be polite and find out why your claim was denied.

3. Appeal Your Offer

One of the most important things to know about property damage claims is that you do not have to accept the initial offer. You still have the power to negotiate and under no circumstances should you accept any insurance settlement offer that you do not believe is fair or that will not cover the costs of repair. While calling your insurance claims adjuster is more convenient, it’s much better to write your appeal; this allows you to create a paper trail of the appeal.

Write a letter to your adjuster explaining why you believe the offer was too low. Include copies of any evidence you’ve gathered, and ask for a response within a specific timeframe, such as five business days. Be polite but direct. Let your adjust know that this offer will not cover your home repairs.

Send the letter via certified mail, so you know exactly when the letter was sent and received, and be sure to send a copy to the adjuster’s supervisor. Though you may be frustrated, especially if you were sent an insultingly low offer, avoid the urge to act on your frustration. Being adversarial can make the whole process much more difficult.

4. Consult a Property Damage Lawyer

If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, it may be time to get a lawyer involved. An experienced attorney will have quite a few resources at their disposal. One such resource is a professional appraiser. An appraiser will review the damage to your house and any other property to calculate a fair number you should be paid.

The insurance company may also have its appraiser assess the damage. And that’s why you should understand how to negotiate with property damage insurance claims adjusters. An impartial party called an umpire would break any deadlocks between appraisers. It’s important to note that, just because appraisers and an umpire have come to an agreed-upon amount of damages, your claims adjuster doesn’t have to pay that amount.

However, you can hire a property damage attorney to conduct a third-party inspection to evaluate the damage themselves. After all, the insurance company will always try to keep the quote as low as possible; it’s a system that is purely part of their business model, and they must keep costs down. But a third-party inspector can give you a better idea of what you should get back. After you have collected more money, a property damage lawyer will usually provide that inspection for free or as part of the eventual fee collection.

This is where mediation comes into play. During this process, your attorney, a representative of the insurance company, and an impartial mediator will sit down and hash out what you should be paid. All parties must be put down on paper and signed if an agreement is reached. Otherwise, the insurance company can act like mediation never happened if they didn’t like the outcome (meaning the agreement is nonbinding).

5. Last Resort: Filing a Lawsuit

If everything above fails, your next and final option (besides simply accepting the offer) is to file a lawsuit. At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, we always try to avoid filing a suit in property damage cases if possible, and this is because the other options above are much quicker. A lawsuit can be a long process which is why we always recommend that you negotiate with property damage insurance claims adjusters directly.

That’s not to say, however, that we won’t or can’t go to court on your behalf. Our experienced personal injury lawyers know how to take on the insurance companies in and out of the courtroom to get you the compensation you deserve. The insurance company may not want to pay you a fair settlement, but we know how to make them open their wallets. When push comes to shove, and you have to make a call to file a property damage lawsuit, be sure you have discussed everything thoroughly with your attorney. Do not leave our details.

Homeowners’ insurance is supposed to protect you in the event of a loss, but insurers always look to undercut the value of your property. Here are a few tips for negotiating your insurance settlement after property damage with your claims adjuster. These tips on how to negotiate with property damage insurance claim adjusters are general, and there may be aspects of your case that are unique to you, and the damage done to your home. So, always call a lawyer to discuss the case before making any decisions yourself.

Call us today at 800-560-5059 or contact us online today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We’re on your side.

About the Author

Michael Steinger
Michael Steinger

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MICHAEL S. STEINGER, founding partner of Steinger, Greene & Feiner, believes in representing real people, not big businesses. Since the firm’s creation in 1997, Steinger, Greene & Feiner has never represented an insurance company or large corporation, and he vows to keep this promise. Over the course of his career, Michael has handled thousands of Florida accident cases, recovering millions of dollars for his clients and earning him membership into the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Staying up-to-date on the ever-evolving laws protecting injury victims and their families, Michael is an active member of the American Bar Association, the Palm Beach, and St. Lucie Bar Associations, and sits on the Auto Insurance Committee of the Florida Justice Association.