You take the time and money to identify what you need to insure, what company you wish to protect, reading and understanding the various policies that cover you and your possessions. Isn’t the importance of telling your agent or insurance company about a loss obvious? Surprisingly, no, it isn’t.
The Notification Obligation
Fulfilling the coverage promise of an insurance policy is all about communication. An insurer makes a promise to protect you against certain types of loss, but it can’t follow-through unless it knows about a loss. Prompt notification is so important that it is a formal policy provision and your failing to meet its requirements could result in you losing the protection you paid for.
Depending upon the policy, items having to do with notification may be under a separate policy part or spread among several areas. However, a policy typically requires you to do the following:
Contact the agent or insurer as quickly as practical – the practical requirement replaced the previous use of “possible,” since some companies unreasonably denied coverage because notification was not instantaneous. The difference between words may seem minor, but it gives you some consideration for circumstances that could affect how quickly you contact your agent or insurer about a loss.
Identify Yourself – Perhaps one day your insurer will be able to recognize your voice over the phone and immediately pull up your file. Until then, be prepared to at least tell your insurer your full name (or, if different, the name the insurance policy is under) and the policy number.
Give adequate details – What, When Where, Why and How. It’s important that the insurer has enough information to take proper action, including giving you instructions on how to have your loss handled. This information forms the basis of opening a claim file, assigning the loss to a claims person and beginning investigation of the claim.
Give the insurer copies of any communications regarding a loss or possible loss (such as a threat of a lawsuit) – You should not guess about whether a legal notice or request to be paid for damages is important, even when an actual lawsuit has yet to be filed. Send a copy of the information to your insurer and let them decide.
Prompt Notification Helps Everyone
Complete and quick communication about losses gives you the best chance to get needed coverage and gives your insurer an opportunity to handle a possible claim efficiently. It also allows the insurer to control issues that could let lawsuits get out of control, such as the ability to offer payment for medical expenses or to contact and question witnesses.
Don’t hesitate! Contact your agent or insurer and get your loss handled.