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Prep Work

Build your case to get major insurance claims.

If you were involved in a lawsuit, you wouldn't show up in court unprepared. You'd have researched, gathered evidence and anticipated what the other side might say and do. You should take the same approach to a major insurance claim, says Brian C. Smith, president of Wilmington, Ohio, insurance company Smith-Feike-Minton Inc.

A key element of your major-claim strategy is having a comprehensive disaster plan in place before you need it, Smith says. That means being sure you have the right coverage and can document values, and you have your records safely backed up in an off-site location. Don't expect your insurance company to pay a substantial claim if you can't prove the value of the loss.

"The adjuster is not going to write a check because you're a nice person who has always paid your premiums and [the claim amount] was the policy limit you had," says Smith. Though there may be no question that your building burned to the ground, your insurance company is still going to want evidence of the value of the loss.

Submit complete documentation with your claim. Smith says the process will be smoother and faster if you itemize your property losses, estimate repair or replacement costs, show appropriate financial records to document income losses, and answer any other questions the adjuster may have before they're asked.


Jacquelyn Lynn is a freelance business writer in Orlando, Florida.

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This article was originally published in the April 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Prep Work.

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