How to make an insurance claim

By: Nick Green

Date: 23 August 2011

It’s a situation every small-business owner dreads. You arrive at your premises one morning to find the lock hanging off the door and a couple of windows in pieces, on the pavement. A quick scan inside reveals gaps where your PCs and other items used to be; files and bits of paperwork are strewn across the floor.

Either it’s time to sack the cleaner or you’ve been burgled.

At least you had the good sense to make sure your office and its contents are insured. That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.

Or is it? Many people think calling their insurer’s claims department is something of a necessary evil. But it needn’t be – insurers are there to help after all – they just need all the information necessary to make their decisions.

Most reputable insurers, contrary to popular belief, don’t mind paying claims. They know their reputation is fragile and being unnecessarily difficult won’t do them any favours. The good ones will make sure they do everything they can to help.

Securing your premises will be first on the list. It’s likely they’ll authorise you to call tradesmen in to fix the doors and windows. If you’re insured for very large sums, they might do it instead and/or send their own surveyor or loss adjuster out to see you. Either way, your policy should pay for the costs you incur to make good your premises.

Next up, they’ll want a comprehensive list of everything that’s missing or damaged (everything you’re claiming for, in other words). Check you’ve listed it all – even if you don’t think it’s covered. And don’t forget things such as blinds, stationery, plants, etc, which can get damaged.

Not unreasonably, insurers have to be sure they’re paying the right people for the right things in the right circumstances.

So they’re going to need proof your business owned or bought the items you’re claiming for. They’re usually quite flexible on what they’ll accept as proof: an original invoice or receipt is obviously best, but anything that links your business to the item will often suffice (eg warranty cards, service records, etc).

Bear in mind that they’re perfectly within their rights to refuse to pay for anything you can’t prove is yours.

If it’s cheaper for your insurer, they might ask that damaged items are repaired rather than replaced. If it turns out that the items are beyond economical repair, they’ll need to see confirmation of this from an expert.

If your insurer is happy with what you’ve provided, they’ll check your policy to make sure it covers what you’re claiming for and that any policy conditions or endorsements added at the start of the policy have been met (eg that your premises have a functioning alarm).

Again, if they find that things don’t quite add up, they’re well within their rights to withhold some or all of your settlement.

All this might sound like a pain, but there’s no reason to assume that making a claim is difficult. To avoid problems, it’s a good idea to periodically check your insurance to make sure you have enough cover and that you’re aware of your obligations under the policy. Always keep an updated inventory of your equipment, too. At least then you’ll know you’ve done your bit, if the worst does happen.

Nick Green, PolicyBee, professional insurance brokers