Spring is a busy time for commercial property insurance claims. As a business owner, a sudden storm can throw a wrench into your day-to-day operations. Knowing what is in your policy and the commercial property insurance claims process is essential if you have to submit a window, roof, or storm damage commercial insurance claim.
What Commercial Property Insurance Covers
You can purchase commercial property insurance separately or as part of a larger general business liability bundle. Commercial property insurance aims to compensate businesses for physical damage to their assets from storms, fires, and theft.
But what does commercial property insurance cover? Generally, your policy won’t cover some natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes. Depending on your circumstances, you can add these coverages as riders to your commercial insurance policy.
It’s not just buildings and other structures that are typically covered by commercial property insurance. Other assets, such as equipment, vehicles, and fixtures, fall under a standard policy. Some policies also include a lost income provision to cover a temporary shutdown.
Though commercial property insurance can be expensive, the premiums your company pays usually are tax deductible. Once your policy is in place, it’s vital that you know how to submit a claim to your insurer.
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How To Submit a Claim – Steps and Best Practices
One thing that always makes a claim submission smoother is organization. Know who your insurance company—and possibly even your agent—is and have their contact information readily available. Make sure you have your policy documents filed in a convenient location. If your insurer offers a mobile app, having it preinstalled on your phone can expedite the claims process.
Speed is necessary because contacting your insurer as soon as possible is critical. After a natural disaster, insurance companies may be dealing with a surge of claims. The sooner you let them know something has gone wrong, they can begin assigning your case an adjuster.
Before an adjuster can reach your location, you need to document the damage yourself. Take pictures before, during, and after an initial cleanup. You can use the photographs to show the adjuster and their claims supervisors the damage you’re dealing with.
During cleanup, be careful what property you discard. While local health regulations may require you to pitch items after a period of time, insurance companies typically want to examine the damage themselves. Unless you are ordered to get rid of material, hold on to and securely store what you can.
When your business is dealing with window, roof, or storm damage, your schedule will be chaotic. A claims diary is a critical tool for aiding your memory of what you lost or what you can salvage. It’s also helpful to record every insurance interaction, including who you spoke to, when, and what about.
Window Damage Claims
One category of commercial property coverage focuses on windows. Commercial window damage from vandalism, theft, or storms usually requires an insurance company to pay your claim.
However, insurance companies always attempt to either avoid paying altogether or at least minimize the payout. When it comes to commercial windows, a common tactic is to declare any damage was “not storm-related.” Every other building in your area may get replacement windows, but your windows do not qualify due to some supposed manufacturing defect or maintenance issue.
Another important note about commercial window coverage is that insurance companies usually have emergency repair companies on retainer. It’s in everyone’s interest that any broken windows do not lead to additional damage, such as flooding or theft. Your company may be able to dispatch professionals to temporarily board up or replace destroyed windows.
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Roof Damage Claims
Similar to windows, commercial roof damage is generally covered by your insurance policy. There can be substantial differences between policies in how insurance companies treat roof damage.
One particular provision to look for in your company’s commercial property insurance policy is how roof damage is assessed. Some policies cover replacement value, but others cap your recovery at the value of the roof before it was damaged. For older roofs especially, the way your policy calculates payouts can greatly impact the amount you receive.
As with damaged windows, if your business suffers roof damage, you should seek expedited professional repairs. A damaged roof can lead to further structural damage, flooding, mold, or other hazards if not quickly mitigated. Be particularly wary after hailstorms. Hail can damage roofs in ways that are nearly invisible to the untrained eye. It’s always best to have a professional examine roofs that were exposed to hail.
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Storm Damage Claims
Commercial storm damage coverage can depend on the type of natural disaster. While lightning, wind, hail, and harm caused by fallen trees or thrown debris usually fall under a commercial insurance policy, flood damage almost always requires your policy to have a separate rider for coverage to kick in.
More localized disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, also require a separate rider to your policy. Whether or not you choose to pay the increased premiums for these additions is a matter of risk management.
Beyond window, roof, or other structural claims, your vehicle fleet may be impacted by a storm. Downed power lines can cause power fluctuations that destroy your servers or other valuable electronics. Sometimes, expensive signage will be torn away in strong winds. Commercial storm damage coverage should kick in to help make your business whole again.
When to Contact a Lawyer
Even though you have insurance to protect you in the worst-case scenario, it’s important to remember that insurance companies are not on your side. Your insurance provider is a business with a bottom line that relies on paying claimants the smallest amount they can get away with. After a commercial property damage claim, your insurance company typically offers you a lowball settlement.
But that first offer is never the best outcome for your business. A commercial property attorney can handle insurance negotiations while you deal with all the other fallouts. Contact GED Lawyers as soon as you know you need to submit a commercial insurance claim.
A standard best practice is to never accept a commercial property insurance settlement without speaking with a lawyer. Our attorneys can provide experienced advice at every stage of the claims process. We can assist in maximizing your insurance settlement while minimizing hassle.
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