Insurance coverage is a complex topic. The many regulations, various providers and myriad levels of coverage are enough to make your head spin, never mind the nearly infinite number of things that can be insured. From your child’s teeth to a baseball pitcher’s MVP arm, it seems everything under the sun can be covered under some type of policy.

Perhaps one of the most complex items to cover, however, is your home and it’s helpful to know what your adjuster knows before you have to file a claim. Through understanding your coverage and the claims process, you’ll maximize your benefit and minimize both the time this process takes and the resulting stress.

Understanding what’s covered (and what’s not)

Let’s face it, your insurance policy is long and can be difficult to interpret, however, it is the letter of the law as far as your provider is concerned. That said, the best thing you can do as a home owner is to understand what is and is not covered to the best of your ability in order to mitigate confusion and distress when filing a claim.

For example, most policies will cover wind-related damages like tornadoes unless, of course, you live in an area that is prone to regular occurrences of these events. Similarly, the resulting damage caused by a roof leak is typically covered. However, the same rainwater entering your home from the basement window may not be covered (note: that these are broad generalizations and you should always check your policy for specific details on your coverage).

Even items that you own, but are not in your home may be covered. Was your laptop stolen from your car? Your auto policy may not have your back, but it is possible your home owner’s insurance will. Fully understanding your coverage will help you know what to file and why your provider may have denied your claim.

Time is of the essence

When damage to your property occurs, it is imperative that you take action quickly. Waiting not only slows down the claims process, but can instill doubt in your adjuster as to what actually happened. In many cases, a home owner has a responsibility to mitigate damage quickly in order to prevent secondary damage (refer to your specific policy language for clarification). The rule of thumb is to act quickly and always contact the proper authorities first as in the case of theft.

Documentation before representation

Documenting both your property and your loss is paramount to a smooth claims process with your provider. Taking inventory of personal belongings, including photos or video, is your best proof that you own what you say you own. Likewise, diligently documenting any home maintenance you have performed and any actions you have taken since your loss will give your adjuster a clear picture of what happened to your property.

Prevention is your best defense

Finally, the easiest insurance claim to deal with is the one that never happens. Regular maintenance on your home is far less expensive than replacing lost items after an event. Regular tree service, sewer scopes, furnace and water pump maintenance, gutter cleaning and so forth can not only reduce your chances for a loss, they could eliminate the possibility altogether. As noted above, documenting preventative maintenance is helpful to your adjuster so keep your receipt of any maintenance performed at your home.