By Mark Decherd
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: document, document, document. This is the key to getting a bigger insurance check. After all, the burden of proof is on you, not the insurance company. So, how do you document your way to a bigger insurance check? Here's how:
First, think ahead. Documenting your property before a loss is one of the best steps you can take. Start by taking a video camera and going through your house, room by room. Videotape everything and narrate as you do so. For example, in your bedroom, take a wide, sweeping shot of the room and say, 'This is the master bedroom located in the northeast corner of the house.' Then focus on individual items such as the bed, again discussing specifics such as 'Notice the king size bed which is dressed in an expensive down comforter by Ralph Lauren and topped with dozens of designer pillows.' Zoom in on the labels. Record everything including the contents of your closet and drawers. Focus on details such as the model and serial number of your flat screen television.
Once you have a video, store it in a safe place such as a safe deposit box and add to it each year. An excellent option is to make a digital video and store the video securely and privately online. Should a loss occur, you can easily access the video from anywhere in the world. Likewise, you can give your insurance adjuster access to the file as needed. Similarly, you can do the same with photos.
As you purchase new items, keep your receipts. These could prove invaluable should you ever have a loss. In addition, create a detailed inventory of your property and update it as needed. For example, use a spreadsheet and list each room along with its contents and their details including price, model number, serial number, etc. Update this file whenever you make a purchase. Again, store it in a safe location or online.
Okay, so you have a loss but you didn't think ahead and you do not have a video. It's not too late. Document the damage now. Take pictures and video of everything, again paying attention to details. For example, if your home is flooded, take pictures of the standing water and the damaged contents as well as the structural damage, inside and out.
Create a list of everything you can think of. Do this methodically by going room by room just as you would have done when making a video. For example, if your home burnt down, you may have only your memory and it can be overwhelming. Break it down by room and work through your memory of that room in a clockwise fashion such as Wall 1, Wall 2, Wall 3, and Wall 4. Wall 1 may have had a desk, dresser, mirror, and television, Wall 2 may have been the walk-in closet, Wall 3 may have had two nightstands, a painting, and the bed. Once you have the basics, drill down. What was in the dresser? What was on top of the dresser? Keep remembering and keep writing - one room at a time.
Finally, get estimates for repairs and replacements, gather receipts and past credit card statements, put together a file or disc containing all of your supporting videos and photographs and have these readily available to show your insurance adjuster.