3 Essential Moves When Filing Your Property Insurance Claim

Tobias Patch
40 articles

Last updated on September 26, 2023
Published on September 24, 2023
Reading time: 13 minutes

close-up photograph of person typing on laptop and writing on a notepad

The Internet is full of cookie-cutter guides on “how to file your property insurance claim,” including our own Ultimate Guide to a Property Insurance Claim here at Brelly.  While these resources offer some value, they often miss the mark by providing vague advice.

Worse, they usually start you off on the wrong foot by merely saying, “Call your insurance company to report your claim.”

I argue that the initial step of contacting your insurer is more urgent and nuanced. It involves more than a simple call to your insurance agent or a 1-800 number. There are 3 Pivotal Actions you must take immediately to ensure your property insurance claim gets the attention and results it deserves.

This post guides you through these 3 must-do actions: 

  1. Yes, reach out to your insurer, but don’t stop at obtaining a claim number; 
  2. Follow up with an immediate written notice to confirm and position your claim;
  3. Calendar the next action for you…and the insurance company.

By adhering to this approach, your claim won’t just be another number; it will rise to the top of your insurance company’s priority list. This is the more bulletproof way to file your property insurance claim. Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Notify the Insurer and Secure Your Claim Number.

All the “How To” guides agree: Claims start by informing the insurance company you had a loss.

This section will go through key nuances, including:

  • When you should/must do it
  • How to notify your insurance company
  • What you want to say and come away with

When You Should & Must Report Your Loss

You should consider two things when faced with a property loss: when should you file your property insurance claim, and when must you file your claim?

The answers to each of these questions are different.  

Here are the short answers:

  • Should:  You should notify the insurer right away;
  • Must: You likely must notify them “promptly,” and different states interpret this differently.

On the question of when you “should” contact your insurer, many How To guides suggest spending time first evaluating the claim and your deductible. 

For example, in the National Association of Insurance Commission’s post “What You Need To Know When Filing A Homeowners Claim,” they suggest:  “Before reporting the property damage to your home, find out what your deductible is. If the damage is minor, you might decide you’re better off paying for the repairs out of pocket.”

Bank Rate’s article, “When To File A Property Insurance Claim,” goes even further, suggesting a variety of factors “to consider…to determine if filing a claim is the best course for you in the long run.” And there are many posts out there to help you consider the “pros and cons.” 

Certainly, you shouldn’t bother filing an insurance claim if the damage is obviously too minimal. However, “obviously” is the key word here. 

Reporting your loss and getting a claim number isn’t going to hurt you in any way because you can always decide to discontinue the claim. On the other hand, every moment you delay notifying the insurance company is damaging to you. The first type of damage is the added delay in ultimately getting payment. The second type of damage is that you could completely lose your right to make a claim!

And this gets us to the “when must you notify the insurer?

The answer to this question is not perfectly clear, and it comes down to a mash-up of 3 factors:

What Your Policy SaysWhat The State Law SaysCase-By-Case Court Review
All policies have a “Duties After Loss” section, requiring policyholders to “Promptly” notify the insurer after a loss.Many states provide policyholders with explicit timelines for when they must report a loss. You can review each state’s laws at our State-By-State Insurance Claims Law Center.If this becomes an issue with the claim, courts will review the claim’s specific circumstances. Oftentimes, they inspect whether the insurance company was “prejudiced” by any delay. 

A major complication here is the stress between Insurance Policy requirements and State Laws.

Every insurance policy has a “Duties After Loss” section. While policies may exist dictating a specific time period to make a claim, every policy I’ve encountered requires policyholders to make a claim “promptly” or within a “reasonable time.” 

Some states, like Texas, rely exclusively on the insurance policy terms. Texas has not passed any laws setting strict deadlines or windows to file an insurance claim. The deadline in Texas, therefore, is determined by the provisions in your policy. Your policy provisions probably require notice “promptly” after a loss.

Other states have stepped in to create explicit deadlines. 

For example, Florida policyholders have 1 year from the date of loss to notify the insurer, although insurance companies still have room to argue that policy provisions requiring “prompt” notice may still rule the day. Louisiana is another type of example, where state law extends any deadlines in the event of declared disasters or emergencies.  Unlike the situation in Florida, Louisiana’s law specifically overrides insurance policy provisions to create additional time to report a loss.

As you can see, this can become very complicated. 

Think about how this can become a problem…

Let’s say you’re painting the exterior of your building and notice a crack. You think it’s nothing, or maybe a little settlement. You paint over it. One year goes by, and you start to notice a lot more cracks in the driveway; you read news about sinkholes in the area, and suddenly, you think you might have a sinkhole issue. So, you notify your insurance company.  But your insurance company argues you should have notified them a year earlier when you saw that first crack.

Seems shocking?

That’s exactly what happened in a case published in January 2023, in Cordero v. Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, Inc. 

As Michael Cassel explains in “Analysis of New Case Law Re: Mitigating Factors in the Late Notice,” the “generally accepted definition of ‘prompt’ means ‘as soon as practicable’ and ‘call[s] for notice to be given…within a reasonable time in view of all the facts and circumstances” of each case. Cassel continues, saying Florida courts have “routinely held that the ‘excuse’ a policyholder did not know their claim would exceed the policy deductible was insufficient” to avoid their duty to provide prompt notice.

Ultimately, in this recent Cordero case, the Florida appeals court decided that a policyholder believing the damages were a simple maintenance issue could be a mitigating factor, allowing more time to provide notice. After all, in Florida and elsewhere, to deny a claim for late notice usually requires proof that the insurer was or was not “prejudiced” by the failure.

But time will tell whether Cordero can succeed in their insurance claim, and this case illustrates the absolute importance of notifying the carrier as soon as possible when you might file a property insurance claim.

Nevertheless, unless it’s obvious that you should not file a property insurance claim, you should put the insurer on notice.

It’s easy to do.

How To Notify The Insurance Company

The good news is that it’s extremely easy and low-risk to notify your insurance company of a loss. Remember, this is not the time to present a perfectly documented claim. You’re simply looking to give notice. High-level, low-detailed notice.

Insurance companies and insurance agents provide quite a few avenues to give this notice. There are so many avenues; in fact, it can be a little confusing and overwhelming. Do it online, through a mobile app, by calling the agent, or by calling the insurance company, etc. There are a lot of choices here. 

To give notice and file your property insurance claim, you only need to complete 1 of the following notice methods, and you can complete any one you wish.

Insurance AgentInsurance Company Phone/EmailOnline Claims Center
Did you buy your insurance policy through an agent or broker? 

If so, you can report the loss by notifying your agent or broker. 

Common methods are phone and email.
Your insurance company likely 
publishes a telephone number and email address specifically for reporting claims.  

You can find these on their websites and can report your claim simply by sending an email to that inbox or calling the number.
Many insurance companies have created online portals and mobile apps to take claim notices.
Risks To Consider:

Insurance agents are not the insurance company. If they fail to pass long notice of your loss and it creates a problem, you’ll be left with a more difficult “errors and omissions” claim against the agent.

Also, you probably won’t get a claims number right away because the agent will need to relay the information to your insurer. So you will not have a lot of “confirmation” after your call.
Risks To Consider:

If you rely on a telephone call to the insurance company, remember that you’re relying on someone else to transcribe what you say into a system. You lose a little bit of control and are at risk of that person making errors.

For emails, you’ll be at risk to emails not getting delivered, spam issues, typographical errors with email addresses, and more.
Risks To Consider:

If you rely on a telephone call to the insurance company, remember that you’re relying on someone else to transcribe what you say into a system. You lose a little bit of control and are at risk of that person making errors.

For emails, you’ll be at risk of emails not getting delivered, spam issues, typographical errors with email addresses, and more.

Here are some of the most popular insurance companies and where you can file your property insurance claim:

Popular Insurance CompanyClaims Phone No.Online Claim Center
State Farm800-732-5246https://www.statefarm.com/insurance/home-and-property/claims
Allstate800-255-7828https://www.allstate.com/claims/home
Liberty Mutual800-225-2467https://www.libertymutual.com/claims-center/home-insurance-claims
USAAhttps://www.usaa.com/inet/wc/homeowners-insurance-claims
Farmers Insurance800-435-7764https://www.farmers.com/claims/home-insurance-claims/
Travelers Insurance800-238-6225 (business)

800-252-4633 (individuals)
https://www.travelers.com/claims/file-claim
Nationwide Mutual877-669-6877https://www.nationwide.com/personal/insurance/claims/property-claims/
American Family800-692-6326https://www.amfam.com/claims
Progressive800-776-4737https://www.progressive.com/claims/property-process/

Further, it’s becoming extremely common to get property insurance from a state’s “Insurer of Last Resort.”  Here is where to make a claim for each of these companies. 

StateInsurerClaim PhoneClaim EmailOnline Claim Center
AlabamaAlabama Insurance Underwriting Association1-866-780-2482https://www.aiua.org/claims/new
CaliforniaCalifornia FAIR Plan Associationhttps://www.cfpnet.com/lossnotice/
ConnecticutConnecticut FAIR Plan860-528-9546forms@ctfairplan.comhttp://ctfairplan.com/claims.html
DelawareInsurance Placement Facility of Delaware(215) 629-8800https://defairplan.onaipso.com/
Washington DCDistrict of Columbia Property Insurance Facility(800) 492-5670https://www.dcpif.org/claims
FloridaCitizen’s Property Insurance Corporation866.411.2742https://www.citizensfla.com/call-citizens-first
GeorgiaGeorgia Underwriting Association770.923.7431http://www.georgiaunderwriting.com/submit-a-claim/
HawaiiHawaii Property Insurance Association808-585-3524“”In the event of a loss to your property, immediately notify your licensed insurance agent and provide specific information regarding your claim. Your insurance agent will file your claim with the HPIA. If you are unable to contact your agent, you may call (808) 585-3524.”
IllinoisIllinois FAIR Plan Association(502) 425-7903https://ifpa.onaipso.com/
IndianaIndiana Basic Property Insurance Underwriting Association317-692-0557“If you should incur a loss, you should contact your agent to submit a claim to our office. Covered property claims are resolved based on the terms of your policy.”
IowaIowa FAIR Plan Association515-255-9531info@iowafairplan.comhttps://iowafairplan.com/for-producers/claims-procedures/
KansasKansas Fair Plan(855) 629-5737.“Report a loss to MII Management Group, Inc.:
Call (855) 629-5737.”
KentuckyKentucky FAIR Plan and Reinsurance Association888-222-7702info@kyfairplan.comhttps://kyfairplan.onaipso.com/
LouisianaLouisiana Insurance Underwriting Plan & Joint Reinsurance Plan888.568.6455https://www.lacitizens.com/claims-center
MarylandMaryland Joint Insurance Association410-539-6808info@mdjia.orghttps://www.mdjia.org/claims

Now, that’s how you contact the insurance company to notify them.

The next section – what to tell them – is important.

What You Want To Say And Come Away With

It’s important to promptly notify your insurance company when you think you may have a loss. There will be a lot of time to explain details and present your point of view about causes, scope, and damages. This is not the time. Your entire goal is to give bare notice and to get a claim number.  

That’s it. As such, you should keep your communications here very pithy.

And in the spirit of pithiness, this section can keep it simple. When notifying your insurer about a loss, you want to:

  1. Communicate that you experienced a loss and would like to make a claim;
  2. Qualify everything you report by explaining that you are still learning about the loss, you’re expecting the insurance company to meet its duty to investigate, and are simply reporting what you know quickly to meet the policy’s notice duties;
  3. Get a claim number;
  4. Make note of who you spoke with, the date and time, and what was discussed. 

Step 2: Seize Control with Written Follow-Up

Do not just notify your insurance company of the claim and then sit back and wait for the next step. Policyholders should be extremely proactive here. The immediate next step is to follow up on your claim notice in writing, as this will cause the insurer to prioritize your claim and will best position your claim to be paid fully, fairly, and fast.

Why Generic Online Advice Falls Short

The run-of-the-mill guides often recommend just “notifying the insurance company,” an approach even endorsed by consumer-friendly Insurance Commissions (see Texas and Indiana examples).

Here’s why it’s bad advice to only notify the insurance company through their published methods:

  1. You’ll later have to fumble through your notes to prove the exact time of your notice, exactly what was communicated, and more. The insurance company will make a formal business record. You won’t. It’s not the same.  Advantage = Insurance Company.
  2. You’re relying on the person on the other end of the call or email to get things right. Again, they’ll create a business record, and again, Advantage = Insurance Company. 
  3. For online portals, you are letting the insurance company set the parameters of what the story is in your original submission. They’re collecting certain information about the claim and creating a record, and again, Advantage = Insurance Company.

Notice a trend?

I’m not suggesting that insurance companies are deliberately misleading. Nevertheless, the fact remains that policyholders rarely make claims, and insurance companies are extremely experienced and efficient at claims. They tailor every step to improve their costs and economics.

Accordingly, after a loss, it’s bad advice to just submit your notice and wait for the next steps.  Instead, you should take a proactive approach, and you should start to create your own record.

Prepare & Formally Send Your Written Notice of Loss 

I love this article and advice from UnitedPolicyholders:  Speak Up: How to Communicate With Your Insurance Company, where the #1 takeaway is to “be proactive and create a paper trail.”  Here are some specific suggestions:

  • “Confirm conversations…with follow-up email or letter.”
  • “Promptly respond to letters and requests…”
  • “Be proactive: Give your insurer proof of your losses and ask for the dollar amounts you are entitled to. Don’t wait for them to tell you how much they owe you.”

This is the right advice. And it starts immediately. 

Yes, notify the insurer through their channels (Step 1 above).  But then, start to create your record immediately.

UnitedPolicyholders aren’t the only group with this recommendation. There is wide agreement amongst professionals that you should formally communicate with insurers.  Consider the law firm Edwards Sutarwalla who recommends you “get everything in writing.”  And then the obviously correct advice from Haffner Law:  

“As soon as possible after the loss, contact your insurance agent to report the claim. Some insurance companies do not have readily available agents, and in that case, call the company directly. Record the name and title of the person to whom you spoke. Once you have contacted the insurance company and reported the claim, send a follow-up letter confirming that you have reported the claim.”  [emphasis added]

Haffner Law

Here is exactly what you want to do to formally send a Notice of Loss to the insurance company:

Item for your letterDescription
Identify Delivery LogisticsAt the very top of your correspondence, indicate the method(s) used to send the letter, and the date sent. This is a legal best practice and helps keep a precise record. It also subtly showcases your organizational skills to the recipient.
Confirm Notification of LossConfirm the “Notification” you provided in Step 1. This acts as a double layer for your record-keeping and establishes the timeline and facts with your insurer, proving your compliance with the policy.
Provide Statement CaveatsYour early notice shouldn’t be overly specific about the loss’s cause or extent. Use this opportunity to qualify your statements, perhaps with language like: “The details in this Notice of Loss are based on the best current information and are subject to change as more becomes known.”
Remind Insurer of DutiesInsurance companies have legal duties after receiving notice of a loss. State laws dictate certain duties to investigate hte loss and to adjust the claim in good faith.  You’ll want to cite these statutes and remind the insurers of their legal duties. 

You can find information about each state’s statutes in our State Insurance Claim Laws FAQs.
Put Insurer on the ClockFinally, part of why you send this document is to put the insurance company on the clock!  Many state laws get very explicit in the insurance company’s duties, requiring insurance companies to do certain actions within certain timeframes.  If the insurer misses a deadline, they can be tagged with big fines (paid to the state) or penalties (paid to the policyholder – you!).  When you send this correspondence, note the exact timeframe that the insurer must follow. You can find information about each state’s statutes in our State Insurance Claim Laws FAQs.

To get this right, it’s important to keep your delivery records organized and to cite the right statutes and duties for the insurer. If you do this right, the insurance company will act promptly on your claim, and if they don’t, you’ll be in a superb position to claim penalties against them and negotiate a great settlement.

You can download a free Notice of Loss Template from Brelly here.  

And consider using Brelly’s communication tools to generate, send, track, and follow up on your Notice of Loss.  

Keep in mind that all your communications become part of the official claim record and could be used against you. This underscores the imperative to be meticulous in your correspondence. Utilize reliable templates, consult with seasoned professionals, or leverage specialized communication platforms like Brelly to safeguard your interests.

[Note: This is your Notice of Loss and is extremely different from your Proof of Loss.  The Proof of Loss will come later after you’ve developed your claim documentation a bit more.  Learn more in our Ultimate Guide to the Proof of Loss].

Step 3: Calendar Your Next Moves

In Step 1, you met your duty and notified the insurer of your loss. In Step 2, you formally confirmed it in writing and “put the insurer” on the clock by reminding them of legal obligations, duties, and timelines. Now, you want to calendar these next actions to act quickly in accordance with the claim timelines.

What are the next moves exactly?

The Insurance Company’s Duties To You & Timelines

Your insurance company is legally bound to assign an adjuster promptly and commence the investigation. State laws frequently dictate the time frames for these actions, as well as for providing you with an initial assessment report. 

Here is a short survey of a few state deadlines:

StateDeadline To InvestigateDeadline To Pay
LouisianaInsurance companies must “initiate loss adjustment” within 14 days after receiving notice of the claim.Insurance companies must pay your claim within 30 days after receiving “satisfactory proof of loss.”  It’s commonly argued that the insurance company has “satisfactory proof of loss” once they’ve examined your property.
CaliforniaThe insurance company must acknowledge a claim within 15 calendar days of receiving a written notice of loss.The insurance company must acknowledge your claim within 15 days and send all claim-related documents.
FloridaAfter receiving a notice of loss, the insurance company has 7 days to acknowledge your claim. After receiving a proof of loss, it has 7 days to “begin investigation” of the claim and 30 days to inspect a home or condo.In most cases, the insurance company should pay you within 60 days of receiving notice of the claim.
GeorgiaNo specific deadlineAn insurance company must pay any portion of a claim that’s not reasonably disputed within 60 days of receiving a written demand for payment.
TexasAn admitted insurer must begin investigating a claim within 15 calendar days of receiving a written notice of loss. Natural disasters could extend this deadline by another 15 calendar days.After receiving all requested forms (like a proof of loss), a Texas insurer has 15 business days to accept or reject a claim, and 60 calendar days to pay a valid claim. Natural disasters could extend these deadlines by another 15 calendar days.

Note:  This chart contains illustrative information and is subject to the specifics of your policy and state law. Many states have exemptions to these deadlines in cases of natural disasters or other extenuating circumstances. Use tools like Brelly to verify the details relevant to your state.

Insurance-Claim-Legal-Guidelines-by-State

After sending your Notice of Loss, the insurance company is on the clock.  

You should know what the timeline is, and the insurance company should know that you know!  

Further, you want to have these dates calendared to make sure the claim moves along swiftly. Research your state’s date put it in your calendar, and consider using tools like Brelly to manage this for you or the policyholders you represent.

Navigating Policyholder’s Timelines

As a policyholder, you generally have a broad window for action once you provide the Notice of Loss. One vital deadline to keep in mind is the “statute of limitations” for filing a lawsuit against the insurance company—usually, a time frame extending at least a year. Nonetheless, as claims can consume considerable time and attention, don’t let this date slip through the cracks.

For the most part, however, the policyholder’s role is to hold the insurance company accountable to their own deadlines. This involves continuous monitoring, sending written reminders, and confirmations to keep the ball rolling. You can do this, or you can enlist help from professionals like public adjusters, attorneys, and maybe even some restoration contractors.

In parallel, gather all necessary documentation, reports, and estimates to solidify your perspective on the claim. The sooner you assemble this information, the quicker you can submit a “Proof of Loss,” which once again sets the insurer’s clock ticking.

In summary, maintaining a deadline-driven approach pressures the insurance company to prioritize your claim, speeding up the settlement process and ensuring fair treatment.

Conclusion: Take Control, Be Informed, Stay Engaged

Navigating the intricacies of an insurance claim is neither simple nor straightforward. This guide offers you three actionable steps to lay a solid foundation: notify your insurer promptly, document your Notice of Loss rigorously, and map out subsequent actions and deadlines.

Your role as a proactive policyholder cannot be overstated. The onus often falls on you to ensure the claim moves in a timely and organized manner. Pairing proactivity with strong documentation equips you to hold your insurance company accountable and fosters a fair settlement process.

If you’re collaborating with professionals in this endeavor, it’s crucial to pick those proficient at navigating the complexities of insurance claims. Their expertise can be invaluable in streamlining the process and mitigating potential pitfalls.

As you proceed, consider diving deeper into the nuances of insurance claims to further arm yourself for what lies ahead. Knowledge is power, and in this context, it’s your best advocate.

Tobias Patch
40 articles
About the author
Tobias is a seasoned contractor, adjuster, and technology zealot. In prior lives he worked for both insurance companies and policyholders, so he understands claims and the rebuilding process from all possible angles. His obsession with finding a better way to handle claims led him to found Brelly, where he serves as the CEO.