How to take control after a disaster -- with help from your insurance

Burglars emptying out your business, your spouse getting seriously injured or a tornado demolishing your house can leave you feeling like your world is caving in. Fortunately, your insurance can help you rebuild. Here's how to leverage it to regain control of your life.

Document everything

The first step to regaining control is taking control -- by preparing for the worst and by keeping track of everything during the claims process.

When it comes to property insurance, prepare a detailed insurance inventory long before disaster strikes. The Insurance Information Institute recommends including purchase dates of your belongings, replacement costs, receipts and photos.

After the disaster or burglary, you can ensure a smoother claims-filing process by doing the following, according to the Insurance Information Institute:

  • Take photos of damaged areas, and give your agent a detailed description of the damage.
  • If you can safely do so, take temporary measures to prevent further damage covering holes in the roof to prevent more flooding, for example).
  • Use your insurance inventory to make sure the adjuster correctly determines the value of your lost property.

When it comes to health insurance, keep the mounds of paperwork organized. Save all bills and copies of claim denials, as well as the contact information of anyone you speak with about your claim. Take notes so that you don't forget things in the heat of the moment. If you have any conversations in writing, save copies, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners NAIC) recommends.

Know your policy

Your policy may contain resources you didn't know you had. For example, your home insurance might cover additional living expenses, meaning that you should save all receipts for hotels and restaurants while your home is uninhabitable -- your insurance company might reimburse you, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

When it comes to health insurance, policies often are filled with exceptions. Know what they are, and ask your agent or insurance company for an explanation if anything is unclear. If your claim gets denied, knowing what your policy covers and doesn't cover is the first step in making your case.

If your claim gets denied
If your health insurance claim is denied, the NAIC recommends persistence. First, rule out the possibility that a simple billing error caused the denial. If that's the case, resolving your claim could be as easy as a single phone call. If not, get started with your insurance company's appeals process as soon as possible, and request your medical records from your health care provider.

If a property insurance claim is denied, you have the option of hiring a public adjuster an adjuster who doesn't work for your insurer and advocates for you instead). Because they get a portion of the check if your insurance company pays out, public adjusters are motivated to help you get the best possible settlement, according to consumer advocacy group United Policyholders. The knowledge of the industry that a good public adjuster has also can help you navigate the complex claims process and give you more control over a situation that might have you feeling lost.

See how much you could save today on your home insurance. Get your free home insurance quotes today!