Over the past several months the United States has experienced significant and unprecedented disaster events: Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, California Wild Fires, and more.

In these trying times, people rely on their trusted insurance carriers to provide light in the midst of darkness. Unfortunately, not all insurance is created equal, and some people will find the insurance claims process is a bumpy road. Many insurance policies contain various features and “Duties After Loss” that both the policyholder and the insurance company must follow.

For example, most insurance policies require policyholders submit a sworn Proof of Loss—either upon request or within a set number of days following the loss. Although this term and requirement sounds simple, it is anything but simple. If a policyholder does not agree with the amount of money the insurance company or adjuster is paying for their claim, it is of the utmost importance that the policyholder submit their own detailed proof of loss.

The proof of loss is frequently a special form that must be filled in perfectly, then sworn to, or signed under the penalty of perjury, which means that policyholders should not sign the document unless they fully understand and agree with the information in the proof of loss. Most people are not aware that they do not have to sign the proof of loss that the insurance company has prepared with their estimate of damages. Policyholders can input their own amounts—that they believe are correct—into the form as their proof of loss in support of their claim.

It is important that policyholders have information and documentation to support their proof of loss amounts, and provide to their adjuster as part of the claim.

If a policyholder is confused or has questions about a proof of loss, and how to handle one, they should contact a licensed professional, such as an attorney, who has experience helping policyholders with their proof of loss. If the insurance company denies or does not pay a policyholder the amount claimed on the proof of loss form, the policyholder may have additional legal actions to pursue against the insurance company, and should contact an attorney experienced in handling property insurance claims to evaluate or advise on the next steps.

  • Sandy Davis

    So, what if the insurance company never requests a proof of loss, and the amount they are willing to pay is not enough to cover the damages? Also, is there a deadline for filing a proof of loss?

    • Emily Marlowe

      Hi Sandy,

      Great question! The answer is tricky – it depends on the policy that you have. If you have a flood insurance policy, then you are required to submit a proof of loss within 60 days that contains the amount of damages that you believe are present. I’m not sure where you are located, but in Texas, where I live, we have a Windstorm Insurance carrier named “Texas Windstorm Insurance Association” or “TWIA” that similarly generally requires a proof of loss if you do not agree with their payment of your damages.

      My best advice to you is to look to your policy to see if there is a proof of loss requirement — some policies require a proof of loss only if requested by the insurer, while other policies (such as flood policies with the NFIP) have requirements to submit the proof of los within a set number of days after the loss. As always, do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney if you have questions or would like specific assistance. Hope that helps.

      Sincerely,
      Emily Marlowe
      Attorney at Merlin Law Group, P.A.

      • Sandy Davis

        Thank you, Emily. Actually, it’s a homeowner’s policy through State Farm. I’ve been in litigation with them for one and a half years now. They never asked me to provide a proof of loss. The loss occurred May of 2015.