A Fool for a Client
Representing yourself in a dispute with your insurance company may risk a lower settlement amount or a denied claim
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saw about how unwise it is to represent yourself in court. President Abraham Lincoln is said to have once retorted: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Interestingly, the sentiment dates all the way back to 1682 when an iteration of it appeared in William de Britaine’s Humane Prudence.
The bottom line is most of us know that having an attorney increases the odds of winning the case, but when it comes to being your own insurance advocate the path forward remains less clear-cut. If your loss is relatively minor, like roof damage from hail during a thunderstorm, the tendency is to negotiate directly with the insurance company. As mentioned in a previous blog, the adjuster has probably been trained to underpay or to nickel-and-dime you until you get so frustrated you walk away from the claim.
As a general rule, consider being your own insurance advocate only for small claims. Anything beyond a minor fender bender should be handed off to a property insurance dispute attorney or to a state-licensed public insurance adjuster. You can find public insurance adjusters online. They act on your behalf when dealing with your insurance company. They can’t practice law, but they can do most everything else.
Whether you represent yourself or you get professional help, there are steps you must take to ensure you have the most potential to win your case.
Know what your policy covers and excludes. The legalese may make your head spin, but you’ve got to know what’s in the policy if you intend to represent yourself.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Video your property inside and out before you suffer a loss. In short, do it now. Open cabinets and drawers. Video your coin collection, and so on. It’s vital to have visual evidence to go with your documentation.
Gather any receipts you have for expensive items (furniture, appliances, art, collectibles, etc.) and photograph them with your smartphone. Scan the images and send yourself an email with the file. This will ensure you can always access your documentation. Think about what would happen if all your photos and documents got washed away in storm surge. Establishing the amount of loss would be much more difficult in that situation.
As soon as it’s safe to return to the property, take videos of the damage. Promptly notify your insurance carrier and/or FEMA if you have flood insurance. Ensure that contractors document everything. Video the progress of the repairs.
Being your own insurance advocate can work with simple claims, but make sure you’re prepared to prove your case with solid evidence gathered before and after the loss. You’ll have all your ducks in a row if you need to call in the professionals, thereby raising the odds of winning your case.