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.