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Filing a Claim? Here�s What Not to Say to Your Insurer

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By Brian O'Connell

People usually aren�t clear and focused when they file an insurance claim. And who can blame them? The claim usually follows a bad incident, like an accident or a flood. But you can make some serious mistakes, and lose out on some big money, if you say the wrong thing to an insurance company on a claim call.

The good news? It doesn�t have to be that way. Use the following tips (write them down and keep them in your wallet or pocketbook) and see if you can�t save some serious cabbage on an insurance claim.

Don�t �flood� the zone � Insurance companies have their own definition of a flood. Just because your finished basement is under six inches of water because of a busted sump pump doesn�t mean the insurer considers it a flood.

Action step: Review your insurance policy thoroughly to see what your insurer will pay out for water damage. In general, insurance companies deem a �flood� as water damage from overflow of a nearby river or lake. Better to use the term �water damage�, using the information gleaned from your insurance policy on water damage.

Keep your opinions to yourself � You�re not George Will or Maureen Dowd, nor do you want to be when filing an insurance claim. Victims of an accident, flood, fire or other actionable incident can easily chatter their way out of the full vale of their claim. If, for example, if you�re not sure how a home fire started in the oven or on the stove, don�t venture a guess. Same thing with a car accident. If you �guess� that you were 30 feet from a guardrail when the evidence shows you were 90 feet away, a good insurance investigator may make a case that you could have stopped the car in time, thus avoiding an accident.

Action step: Like a hard-boiled police detective, keep to the facts � and only if you�re sure you know what those facts are. If you don�t, zip your lip. Much better to say �I don�t know� than to venture a guess that can be held against you later.

Don�t admit guilt � Insurance companies will use all the leverage they can to avoid paying out on a claim. So if the first thing you say to the other driver after an accident is �I did it� or �I apologize� an insurer can use that as an admission of guilt ... or more specifically, an admission of fault.

Action step: Just like tip #2, it�s best to stick to the facts � and only those you know for sure. Don�t offer up any commentary on fault or responsibility � at least until you talk to your own insurance company first (always a good idea after an accident, especially).

Don�t talk �on the record� to the other party�s insurance company � You are under no obligation to engage in a recorded conversation with the other party�s insurance company after an accident.

Action step: Make any statements to your own insurer, and refer questions from the other insurer to your company.

Don�t sign off on any medical related documents � One big mistake that insurance claim victims make is to sign off on a medical release after an insurance incident. First of all, it�s against the law for any insurer to access your medical record without your consent. Insurance company�s may use the records to bolster their case against paying out on a claim (example: you�re nearsighted and can�t prove you had your glasses on when you hit that fire hydrant).

Action step: Reject any attempt to access your medical records. Don�t even offer up the name of your physician. Always remember, loose lips can trigger a claim flip � and not in your favor.

In general, the less you say, the better, when it comes to insurance claims. When you do talk, make sure what you say is backed up by the facts.

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