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Making an Insurance Claim Checklist

Owning and operating a business is a tough job. Owners must manage employees, see to business needs, and keep their customers happy. They must also prepare for inevitable business losses. Small business owners should have a comprehensive business insurance policy to protect against property and financial losses.

You can get many types of business insurance for your company. The standard business owners policy (BOP) includes liability coverage, business income protection, and commercial property insurance. Having small business insurance is a start. When something happens, you must file an insurance claim.

The claims process varies depending on the insurance company and type of claim. You need a plan for making claims to ensure your insurer handles your claim quickly and with few issues.

For more information, see FindLaw's Business Liability and Insurance section.

Preparing for Insurance Claims

Business insurance claims fall into several categories. The type of coverage you have dictates the nature of your claim. You should create a checklist for each of your policies so you can file your claims easily when needed.

The first step in any insurance claim is collecting evidence of your claim. This may include pictures or videos of property damage or financial records showing evidence of loss of income. You should obtain names and contact information for any involved parties as soon as possible.

If your business is subject to PCI standards, you may have cyber insurance. Cyber insurance is a type of business insurance that protects businesses against data breaches and hacking. There are special reporting requirements for PCI DSS breaches, and your insurance coverage may differ from general liability insurance. Ask your insurance agent about any specialized coverage like cyber insurance.

Checklists and Deadlines

Many policies have strict deadlines for making claims. In general, you must notify your insurance carrier within 30 days of the date of the incident. Don't assume your insurer will know you've been the victim of a natural disaster. File a claim no matter how obvious it may be.

Property Insurance Claims

Property insurance protects you against most types of damage. Your policy may have exclusions for some types of damage, such as natural disasters. Confirm your coverage with your agent when you purchase your policy. Your property damage claim should include:

  • Photos or videos of the damage, including all areas, even those that were not damaged (this will help your adjuster assess the total loss)
  • Estimates of the cost of repair or replacement of the damaged property
  • A possible inspection of the property by your adjuster (don't repair anything until the adjuster has examined the damage)
  • A filing of your claim according to your policy requirements (your policy should state what documents your insurer needs)

You have a duty to mitigate your losses. Once the adjuster has completed any inspection, you must carry out enough repairs to permit normal business operations. Keep track of all costs of materials and labor for repairs. You can include these in a revised claim.

General Liability Claims

Business liability insurance covers any claims customers or vendors make for bodily injuries. It also pays the costs of litigation and the claimant's medical bills. If a customer or vendor makes a personal injury claim, take these steps:

  • Get the name and address of the victim. Get contact information for any witnesses to the accident.
  • Take photos and videos of the accident scene. Document any efforts to assist the victim.
  • Notify your insurance carrier. Contact your attorney for advice.

Never admit any liability or fault. Preserve all evidence of your actions leading up to the event. Your insurance provider will let you know what they need when the claimant files against your policy.

Professional liability insurance, sometimes called malpractice insurance, is a particular type of liability insurance. Doctors, attorneys, and other professionals must carry insurance specific to their industry. This coverage pays the costs of litigation, such as attorney's fees and court costs.

Business Interruption Insurance

This coverage provides reimbursement for times when your business can't operate due to equipment damage, natural disasters, or other unforeseeable causes. This insurance will pay some expenses during the interruption period and restore some lost income. To file a business interruption claim, you must show:

  • The cause for the interruption and the impact on your entire operation
  • Receipts and invoices for the previous years that show your estimated income
  • Payroll and expense accounts showing your estimated costs

As with all insurance, you must make all reasonable efforts to resume business as soon as possible.

Additional Resources

Hire an Attorney

If you must file an insurance claim, you need legal advice to ensure your claim meets all your insurer's requirements. Contact a business and commercial law attorney for help with your insurance information concerns.

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