Bruce Sackrison

Bruce Sackrison is a Napa Valley Register columnist who will write about property and casualty insurance matters.

You filed a claim weeks or months ago and it’s still not settled.

What can you do?

I’m going to step into dangerous waters in this column. Dangerous, because unresolved claims can be frustrating. They can make you feel powerless.

You can avoid a lot of frustration by asking your agent for an “insurance claims checkup.”

A routine checkup during the claims process can make you feel better and possibly resolve your claim more quickly and more accurately.

Here’s how to begin.

Know what your agent can’t do

Knowing what your agent can’t do will clear the way for a good agent-insured relationship during the claims process.

Here are at least three things they can’t do:

First, your agent isn’t a claims adjuster. In fact, they are prohibited by their company from deciding the outcome of a claim at all. They aren’t allowed to say “yes” or “no” or “how much.”

Second, your agent isn’t a judge or an attorney. They can’t bind or change anything. The policy that you bought is the governing document and everyone is bound by it.

Third, your agent can’t (and shouldn’t) promise a particular outcome of your claim.

In short, as much as you might wish they could, your agent can’t decide how much you get.

Know what your agent can do

Now that we’ve seen what your agent can’t do, you might be tempted to say, “So what good is my agent? What can they do?”

They can do plenty!

Here are at least four things your agent can help you with during a claims checkup.

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1. Provide emotional support

You may start to feel like your family and friends are tired of hearing about your struggles with the insurance company.

But your agent won’t ever get tired of hearing it. You are his or her most important job. Your agent can be a knowledgeable relief valve for your frustrations. Let your agent be that for you.

2. Be a point of contact

It’s common for a claim to involve lots of people.

There’s the person who adjusts the claim, their boss, the assistants, the person who writes the checks, the mortgage company, the various contractors... the list goes on and on.

You can get overwhelmed just trying to figure out who you should talk to next. Your agent can help you navigate the communications confusion.

3. Clarify policy confusion

Policyholders aren’t the only ones who can get confused about what a policy covers or doesn’t cover. Adjusters can miss things too.

So even though an agent can’t “rule” on policy language, they can spotlight particular policy language that might have been overlooked.

Adjusters are good folks. They really try to do the right thing. But having your agent as a second set of eyes on the policy could make a difference in a final settlement. I’ve seen it happen.

4. Encourage swift action

I’ve seen claims stall for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it’s the insured who didn’t realize the ball was in their court.

Sometimes it’s the insurance company waiting for something they already have. Your agent can get to the bottom of what’s holding up a claim and light a fire under people when needed.

My advice

Ask your local agent for a claims checkup. They can translate “insurance-speak” into regular talk. Let them be your trusted ally.

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Bruce Sackrison is an insurance property and casualty broker affiliated with Professional Insurance Associates. He is at 707-931-0186 or bruces@sackifs.com.