How to Match Property Damage Claims & Repairs

31 Aug
Insurance Claims Matching Home Repairs

Insurance Claims Matching Home Repairs

Imagine this:

A hailstorm rolls through town and does serious damage to the siding on your house. The hail only damages one side of your home while the other three are just fine. Your insurance company agrees to replace the damaged siding but when the repairs begin it turns out that the color of your siding is no longer available. Your insurance company wants to only replace the damaged side with a color that is close but definitely not an exact match.

You, on the other hand, believe that the insurance company should now replace all of your siding so that the colors match because you don’t want to leave in a mismatched house.

Who is right in this scenario? It all depends on whom you ask and how a local judge interprets your insurance policy.

While this may seem far-fetched, this scenario happens all the time and is actually referred to in the insurance industry as “matching”. It doesn’t necessarily have to be siding, it can be shingles or roofing materials, carpeting, tile or anything else in your home that requires a matching material to make the repair look correct.

What Your Policy Says

While insurance policies can vary, for the most part they are fairly standard. The section of the policy that most insurers will reference in regards to a matching claim falls under Section 1: Perils Insured Against. This section will usually state “we insure against direct physical loss”. The second portion of the policy they usually quote is located under the loss-settlement section and refers to “that part of the damaged building”

Insurance companies feel that this language indicates that they are only responsible for replacing damaged portions of a building or house and any undamaged portions of the house would be excluded from the claim. Basically they are saying it is your responsibility to replace undamaged portions if matching is important to you.

Indemnity and Why It’s Important

Indemnity is the principle that insurance is based on and basically it states that the insured is restored to what he or she had before the loss. According to this principle, matching is a requirement because if the insured had matching siding or tile before the loss and if after the claim they have mismatched siding or tile than the insured has not been properly indemnified because they no longer have matching materials in or on their home.

Who is Right?

It all depends on how the judge, assuming you go to court, interprets your insurance policy. Insurance policies can be surprisingly vague and unambiguous when it comes to the specifics of matching. Court cases have seen rulings go either direction. In some cases the judge sides with the homeowner and requires the insurance company to completely match materials.

In other cases, a judge has sided with the insurance company and ruled that they only need to replace the damaged portions of the home and not worry about matching materials if they are no longer available.

Unfortunately, there is no way to know which way the judge in your particular case is going to interpret your policy if you have a claim that involves matching issues.

What Can I Do?

The problem is that most people are not even aware that this is an issue until they have to make a claim that involves matching problems. Fortunately, you are now aware of the various issues involved and can take some precautions to make sure this never happens to you.

Read Your Policy: While most policies contain standard language, there can be variances between insurers so carefully read your policy paying particular attention to issues that are related to matching or repairing only the damage portion of home. If you see wording that you do not understand or that makes you uncomfortable, talk to your agent or insurance company. If they cannot answer your questions or clarify their matching policy, you may want to consider shopping your coverage.

Get Replacement Value Coverage: Replacement value insurance means that your insurer will replace your lost property with new property regardless of cost. This means that if your TV is 10 years old when it is destroyed, you will be getting a brand new TV. Actual Cash Value coverage takes deprecation into account so that ten year old TV will result in a claim check that is more than likely not enough to buy a new one. A replacement value policy makes it harder for an insurer to argue that they shouldn’t have to match materials on your home.

> FAQ: What is replacement cost coverage and actual cash value?

Ask Your Agent: Contact your agent and ask them how your insurer handles matching issues. If you are unhappy with their answer, start searching for a new policy.

> Shop Homeowners Insurance Quotes Now

Hire a Public Adjuster: A public adjuster will negotiate a claim on your behalf. They have experience and expertise that can come in handy when dealing with complicated claim issues. Fees vary but are usually a percentage of your claim amount.

Hire a Lawyer: If you are unhappy with the outcome and your insurer refuses to negotiate further, hire a lawyer and go to court. This may prompt your insurance company to settle in your favor or if it goes to court there is a good chance a judge will rule in your favor. Remember though that the judgment can go either way.

Hopefully you will never have to deal with a matching issue when it comes to your homeowners insurance but being aware of the issue and proactively talking to your agent can give you an advantage in the event you have an issue in the future.

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