Insured Commercial Property Guide for Loss Due to a Disaster

Here is a printable PDF version: When A Disaster Strikes: What to Do After an Insured Commercial Property Loss

This Consumer’s Guide should be used for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be an opinion, legal or otherwise, of the State Corporation Commission on the availability of coverage under a specific insurance policy or contract, nor should it be construed as an endorsement of any product, service, person, or organization mentioned in this guide.

A Consumer's Guide with Questions and Answers for Commercial Properties

How do I report a claim?

  • Your insurance agent is the first link between you and your company. If your agent is unavailable or if your insurance company does not have representatives on the scene available to help you, call the company directly, and ask for the claims department. The company's phone number is listed in your policy or can be obtained through the Bureau of Insurance. Please note the Bureau of Insurance does not have a record of your policy or policy number. Your insurer’s website may provide important information on how to report a claim.
  • It is very important that you fully understand your rights and responsibilities so that you can take charge of your own situation. If your insurance policy has been lost or destroyed in the disaster or if you are confused about the policy benefits or exclusions, your agent or company will be able to tell you exactly what coverages you have purchased.
What should I do if my company has not responded to my claim?
  • After you report your loss, the insurance company will assign a company representative to check the damage to your property and determine how much will be paid for your loss. If it is necessary to vacate your building, be sure to report the address and phone number where you can be reached. Virginia has certain laws and regulations that govern the claims handling practices of your insurance company. For example, insurance companies are required to acknowledge the receipt of your claim within 10 working days. They also are required to provide you with the appropriate forms to file a claim. If your company has not responded to you within the required period of time or if you have experienced any other unreasonable delays in the handling of your claim, the Bureau of Insurance can provide assistance.
What information must I give to the company representative? 
  • Your  property  insurance  policy  requires  you  to  complete  a  claim report which lists all items destroyed, damaged, or missing. If you do not have or cannot locate a complete inventory, try to picture the contents of your building, and then list and describe all the items that were damaged or destroyed. 
  • As accurately as possible, try to remember when or where you bought each item, how much you paid for it, and how much it will cost to replace it. It is also helpful to include the brand name and model number if you know it.
  • You may wish to prepare an inventory and/or photograph the building and its contents now, and store a copy in a safe place at a different location. This will make preparation of your claim much easier and more accurate. 
What services can I expect from the company representative? 
  • The  representative may ask to examine all damaged items to prepare a written damage estimate for the company. You may ask for a copy of this report and should not hesitate to ask questions if you do not understand it or need help in completing the claim form. 
Should I wait for the company's permission to begin clean-up? 
  • To protect your property from further damage, you should make all necessary temporary repairs, such as boarding up windows and patching holes in walls or roofs, as soon as possible, even if you have not yet seen the company representative. You can also move your building contents to a protected area and begin cleaning and drying items damaged by water. However, you should not dispose of any items that you believe may be a complete loss until the company representative has examined them.
  • Take photographs to show how it looked before you started cleaning and repairing, and be sure to keep receipts for all of your clean-up expenses. Most property insurance policies cover the reasonable costs of emergency clean-up and temporary repairs.
Can I hire someone to make emergency repairs? 
  • Probably. Most property insurance policies cover reasonable costs for materials and labor expenses for temporary and emergency repairs in addition to any final repairs made to your property. You should also ask your company representative how the company will compensate you for work you do yourself. Be sure to keep all of the receipts. 
How should I go about choosing a contractor to make repairs? 
  • When choosing a contractor, you should make sure that you deal only with established firms or   individuals who can provide references and are willing to give you a signed contract. If friends or associates cannot recommend a reputable contractor, check with the local disaster center, your local building code department, or the Better Business Bureau for guidance. 
  • Some insurance companies may have a list of qualified contractors that they can recommend, but it is ultimately your responsibility to select a contractor. You may also want to contact the Board of Contractors with the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation to verify that the contractor is licensed and in good standing. Contact information is available on the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation's website.
  • Obtain written estimates before repairs begin, and do not sign any contracts for major repair until the company representative has determined how much damage there is and how much the company will pay. 
A contractor told me he can do the job faster if I just sign my check over to him. Is that a good idea? 
  • No. If the repair work is extensive, the contractor may ask for periodic partial payments as the work progresses, but it is highly unlikely that a reputable contractor would request full payment in advance. The contract should specify that payments will be made as the work is completed. If you have a mortgage on your building, the lending institution may also have specific requirements as to how the insurance funds are disbursed. 
What if my contractor says the repairs will cost a lot more than the company representative has allowed? 
  • If there is a discrepancy over the cost of repairs or the contractor has found hidden damage, you should first contact the company representative to try to resolve the difference. If you are still unable to resolve your differences, contact the Bureau of Insurance. 
My building suffered heavy structural damage. The company representative says it's repairable, but the contractor and I disagree. 
  • If your contractor believes that the building is unsafe and not repairable, you may ask your contractor to provide documentation that can be given to the insurance company supporting this position. You may also wish to contact your local building code department inspector regarding the safety and occupancy of the building. If the building inspector determines that the structural damage is extensive and not safe to repair, ask the inspector to provide supporting documentation that you can provide to the insurance company. Typically, the company representative will contact the  building inspector if more information is needed to arrive at a decision.
What should I do if I have an insurance question or problem?
  1. Contact your agent or company. If you believe your insurance company has improperly canceled or nonrenewed your policy, has increased your premium over 25%, or has refused to pay all or part of a valid claim, you have the right to question this. Sometimes a mistake has been made, and it will be corrected if an inquiry is made. A complaint by letter is best. Keep a copy of your letter. If you decide to contact the agent or company by telephone, keep a written record of:
    • The date and time of your call.
    • The name of the person you talked to.
    • What was said during the call.
  2. Seek help from the Bureau of Insurance. If you do not receive a prompt and satisfactory response, you may need to get help to resolve your problem. The State Corporation Commission Bureau of Insurance provides free professional information and complaint services to all Virginia residents. To use these services you can visit the State Corporation Commission Bureau of Insurance website for contact information and additional resources.
    • You may use the Property and Casualty Insurance Complaint Form, or file electronically from the State Corporation Commission Bureau of Insurance website.
    • The Bureau of Insurance will: 
      • Thoroughly investigate your complaint;
      • See that you get a clear response to your questions;
      • Cut through red tape; and
      • Correct misunderstandings.
    • But the Bureau cannot:
      • ‚ÄčForce a favorable action on your complaint if it is not supported by facts and law. 
      • Provide legal services that are sometimes required to settle complicated problems.
    • If the Bureau is unable to resolve a problem, we will tell you why. If the law and facts are on your side, we will try to see that your rights are protected and that your complaint is resolved in a satisfactory manner.