When a commercial property is damaged, resolving the issue and getting back to business are top priorities for business owners. However, the insurance claims process is often complex and can be difficult to navigate. Knowing the steps to take and what actions to avoid can help commercial property owners ensure they are successful in resolving a commercial property damage claim.
Winning a Commercial Property Damage Claim
After a commercial property has sustained damage, policyholders are often confident—because they are insured—that their claims will be processed successfully and business will be able to quickly resume as usual. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and many property owners will struggle to obtain the compensation they are owed to repair the damage sustained. Claims often sit at a standstill, leaving severely damaged commercial properties unusable for long periods and business owners with no means of running their operations.
While there is no one-size-fits-all process to successfully resolve all property damage claims, as each instance is unique, there are certain items to keep in mind that can help most policyholders succeed. Knowing the mistakes to avoid entirely during the claims process, for instance, can be the key to winning a commercial property damage claim. These include:
Failing to Understand the Insurance Policy and its Exclusions
While commercial property owners may know the ins and outs of their business, that doesn’t mean they know everything about their insurance policies. This is often due to insurance policy language being heavily nuanced and containing various provisions and exclusions that may be unknown to the policyholder. A lack of policy knowledge can be a major issue when filing a property damage claim.
To avoid this, commercial property owners should take the time to thoroughly review their insurance policies. Consulting with experienced legal counsel during this process can be helpful, as insurance coverage lawyers can give valuable insight into a policy and note any gaps in coverage that may make a claim difficult. While it may be time-consuming, it can cause fewer headaches in the long run when property damage does happen and will likely help the property owner have a successful claims process.
Not Protecting the Damaged Property
Immediately after damage occurs at a commercial property, one of the key requirements outlined in an insurance policy is for property owners to take reasonable steps to protect it from further damage. This does not mean the insured should begin making any repairs to the property. Rather, the property owner should make arrangements to ensure the property doesn’t sustain additional damage while the claim is being investigated. For instance, if a commercial property’s roof was damaged due to a hurricane, hailstorm, or tornado and then was left exposed to the elements causing further damage to the interior of the property, the insurance provider may flat-out deny the claim altogether. Installing tarps where needed and blocking off damaged areas from non-damaged areas can help contain existing damage and prevent further damage.
Failing to Promptly Notify the Insurer
When property damage occurs, the insurance provider should be notified as soon as possible. This is because claims are much easier to adjust once the event has just occurred and the damage is fresh. A delayed response can put some property damage claims in limbo, as it leaves room for the insurer and adjuster to doubt the severity of the damage and what caused it.
Timely notice by the policyholder is often a requirement in many commercial policies. Just as insurers are required by the Texas Insurance Code to abide by strict time limits during the processing of a claim, policyholders are expected to notify their insurer of damage within a reasonable amount of time as well. While Texas allows for up to two years for a property damage claim to be filed, it is in the best interest of the policyholder to notify their insurer as soon as possible. Failing to report the claim within a reasonable timeframe could result in the insurer denying coverage.
Not Having the Proper Documentation
Not having and maintaining the proper documentation can be detrimental to a property damage claim. Good recordkeeping is essential if a loss occurs because insurers require detailed information to settle a claim. In fact, in some cases, the information required by the insurance provider is stated within the policy conditions. For instance, the ISO commercial property form requires policyholders to provide complete inventories of the damaged and undamaged property, including quantities, costs, values, and the amount of loss claimed. It also requires policyholders to submit photo and video evidence of the damage. Policyholders should take photos and videos of everything damaged as soon as possible after the damage is discovered.
It’s also important commercial policyholders document each and every communication had with their insurer regarding the claim. Keeping and maintaining a list of contacts of everyone involved, as well as the dates, times, and subject matter of all related correspondence can help ensure nothing is missed so a claim can be successful.
Commercial Property Damage Insurance Coverage Attorneys
While there are several ways to help ensure a commercial property damage claim will be processed successfully, there is no way to guarantee an insurance provider will act in good faith. Even if the insured knows their commercial policy well and follows all the necessary steps to ensure a timely claim filing, the insurer can still grossly underpay, delay, and deny the claim for its own benefit.
At Raizner Slania, we know just how upsetting this can be for policyholders. We have worked to hold some of the largest insurance companies in the world accountable for their poor actions and have obtained a reputation for delivering successful results for our clients. If you need assistance with a commercial property damage claim that has been wrongfully delayed, denied, or underpaid, we can help. Contact us today for more information.