Tips to Get Your Insurance Claim Approved: Part Two

"Writing on the wood is prohibited."...
“Writing on the wood is prohibited.” (Photo credit: Nicolas Karim)

By Kathleen Defever

Tip Two: Put it in Writing / Get it in Writing

Put it in Writing

When you are speaking to your insurance claims representative, take notes. Make sure you document:

1) the date and time

2) the representative’s name

3) the topics you discussed

4) what the representative tells you

This is very important. On the other end of the line, your insurer is keeping their own notes about your conversation, and it is almost guaranteed that they are not documenting your entire story. This is for two reasons. First, it would be difficult for them to get every word of the telephone conversation down on paper. Second, they are only interested in documenting the pieces of information that are favorable to them. Therefore, if you want a record of the facts and circumstances that weigh in favor of your claim, you had better create that record yourself.

A written record of your telephone conversations is useful because a) you are creating a document you can use to refresh your memory, and b) you are gaining negotiation power you may need at a later date. For example, if your claim is delayed or denied and you feel you are being treated unfairly, you can tell your insurer that you have their promises documented in writing, and you expect them to treat you fairly. Then, send them a copy of your notes. Even if your notes are a little sloppy and they don’t match what the insurer has on record, the fact that you have written notes equalizes the disagreement, making the case “your word against theirs”. This can shift the claims processing in your favor.

Your notes have the ability to make such a significant impact on your claim because insurance companies typically handle thousands of claims at a time, and they can’t possibly keep track of each and every claim with a high degree of accuracy. Therefore, when they are faced with notes that you took when the phone call was fresh in your memory, they know they need to pay attention. Your insurer can’t be certain that their notes are more accurate than yours. They have hundreds (or even thousands) of claims representatives, each at different levels of competence and seniority. Not all of them are keeping a good record.

Get it in Writing

Further, your insurer can’t possibly remember everything they have promised to you. For example, claims representatives often say soothing things like, “Oh, don’t worry Mr. Smith, your claim is approved and I will get your money to you by the end of this week.” While these words might make you feel good and you are now thinking your claim is fully approved, you are guaranteed nothing unless those words are in writing and the document is in your hands. The words of the claims representative mean nothing unless they are in writing, on company letterhead.

Until the point that you have your insurer’s guarantees in writing, you have only what you have documented, in your own notes. Never rely on the hope that your insurer has written their verbal promises in your claim file. It is unusual for the insurer to document their promises in your claim file. Insurers don’t document their promises to you for the simple reason that they want to avoid any chance they will be held accountable for them later.

Written Records are Crucial in a Court of Law

Finally, keeping written notes can help you if at some later point you need to retain a lawyer (i.e. because your insurer does not deal with you fairly or is refusing to pay). Your notes can be a serious help during litigation – possibly making the crucial difference between receiving your money early in the process or not receiving it until you have endured protracted litigation (or maybe never receiving it at all!).

Watch What You Say

One final pointer –  Be very careful what you say to your insurer on the telephone. They are writing down their own summary of what you say, which will not be accurate, and they will not hesitate to use it against you later. This alone should be enough to get you reaching for your pen and paper before you pick up the phone!

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