If you don’t think the settlement is enough, you can always refer your case to the industry ombudsman; insurers will often only pay out more (or even at all) after such steps have been taken.
By not contesting a settlement offer you disagree with, you risk losing out, even if the offer’s presented as ‘full and final’.
Here at Policy Expert, one of our customers recently had just such an experience.
Case study: Missed and undervalued items
When robbers smashed their way into Lyn Chamberlain’s isolated home and burgled it, her husband was in hospital waiting for a heart bypass operation.
Lyn made her insurance claim for the items stolen, but with her husband away she hadn’t noted his expensive watch was missing. She also hadn’t realised that her own antique gold watch, valued at £190 back in 1991 and also stolen, would now be worth a great deal more.
Remember, loss adjustors aren’t your friends
As is common practice, the insurance company sent out a loss adjustor who offered ‘full and final’ settlement there and then, which Lyn accepted. This valued Lyn’s gold watch the same as in 1991.
Lyn had made her difficult personal circumstances clear to the adjustor, and feels it was wrong that a full and final settlement offer was made on the same day. She describes the adjustor as being “abrupt and quick” and says that “given my circumstances – being home alone with my husband awaiting a serious op – it was not appropriate. My thoughts were elsewhere.” Lyn added that “They just want to pay out as little as possible, and seek to take advantage of the fact that many people do not find everything that is missing for some time”.
In this regard, she’s quite right. Insurance companies do try and keep claim costs down to a minimum and, if there is no resistance, the minimum is what you’ll get.
It was only some weeks later that Lyn realised her husband’s watch was missing and that her own gold watch would be worth much more than in 1991. But by then it was too late as she’d signed for the settlement.
Be wary, think clearly
Lyn clearly was going through a difficult time, and it can be difficult to thing clearly in such circumstances, but to help avoid costly mistakes when claiming bear in mind the following:
• Act quickly – Send your claim form as soon as you can, but don’t rush into decisions subsequently.
• Loss adjustors – They’re there to represent the insurance company’s interests, not yours.
• Loss assessors – You can appoint a loss assessor to represent your interests, but they’ll take a commission (it’s usually only worth using their services for larger claims).
• Settlement – Don’t necessarily accept the first offer the insurer makes in settlement of your claim. If you think it’s wrong, tell them and say why in writing. It’s widely known that companies will at first nearly always offer less than the claim, or reject it out of hand. They simply hope people will accept it, which they often do.
• Complaints – If you don’t think the settlement is correct, and the company continually refuse to increase it and give poor reasons, you can go to the ombudsman. For most insurance claims this is the Financial Services Authority (FSA). http://www.fsa.gov.uk/Pages/consumerinformation/if_things_go_wrong/index.shtml
Have you ever made an insurance claim? Share your experiences below.