Homeowner's Insurance
September 10, 2004 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Following up on yesterday's "I was robbed" question, I now ask a question about homeowner's insurance, claims, etc - please come inside.

I very carefully itemized everything, priced the items (mostly electronics, lots of cameras and rare photographic equipment, and some fancy family treasure jewelry of my wife's) and my large criterion/kino dvd collection, consulted receipts, which we only have a few of, and came up with a very large number - about US$17,000, not counting damage to the back door and locks and the need for repairs thereof.

Can I honestly expect my insurer (California Casualty) to pay for much of this? Will they honor the claim at all? I have heard that some insurers don't pay at all for theft, even though the policy does allow it. Our deductible is about $700 and we filed a comprehensive police report and the cops came out and verified how the thieves forced the door and jimmied the lock, etc. The only thing I'm really pissed about is the loss of income now from my laptop being gone - I can't get any freelance work done at all and had to beg two clients for extensions and resign from one smaller project already.
posted by luriete to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I probably only have receipts for $3000 worth of the stuff, though. Not much. I wish I had more, and I wish I had followed people's advice and took pictures of possessions before.

I did, however, get informal notes/letters from a half dozen friends attesting to the size / quality of my dvd & camera collection, that i had the video projector and powerbook that i used to show movies in the backyard on summer weekend nights, etc. Maybe that will be helpful?
posted by luriete at 1:13 PM on September 10, 2004

Does your policy include cost of replacement, or just compensatation for value? That'll be the key.

I wouldn't consider $17k a "very large number"; I have had no trouble with insurers giving me very reasonable quotes for personal property cost-of-replacement coverage up to $40k worth of stuff. I don't think your insurer will bat an eye over it. Give them your itemization and say "cut me a big check, please."
posted by majick at 1:27 PM on September 10, 2004

I've only filed a renter's insurance claim, but they were very good about replacing some items even though we didn't have receipts or pictures (or sometimes even serial numbers). As long as you do a good job documenting what you do know about the stolen items, most insurers are good about working with you. One thing that might help--if you elect to let them ship you replacement items instead of cutting you a check, they might be more willing to work with you, since they get a big discount on those items. I actually got upgrades on several stolen items that were older, discontinued models.
posted by gokart4xmas at 1:35 PM on September 10, 2004

A $17k loss is nothing to an insurance company. I've never worked with California Casualty (I used to be in the P&C insurance biz), so I can't speak to them in specific, but if you give them an itemized list, they'll pay out (replacement or current value depending, as majick points out).

For those playing along at home, a good weekend project to undertake is photographing your valuables. Take your digital and snap a few pictures of every valuable item that you have, such that the make, model, and condition can be observed, where possible. Dump your CF card, name the files well, add a few readme.txts, burn it to a CD, and stick it in your safe deposit box.
posted by waldo at 1:40 PM on September 10, 2004

One issue that you might want to investigate...you mention that your laptop was used for work. Most insurers have special rules about business equipment, so I'd look into their rules on such items before claiming for your laptop. Maybe call your local agent?
posted by gokart4xmas at 1:40 PM on September 10, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you all for the good advice. I've never been through anything like this before and you've all been tremendously helpful.

I was told that once they decide what items they are going to cover, they will cut me a check for their decided-upon replacement value. Then, if we replace the item and it costs more, we can submit the receipt and they will cover the difference.

I would be happy to have them replace some items, like the DVDs, laptop, video projector, cameras, fancy multi-region code-free DVD player, etc. The jewelry I think my wife will want some say in though.
posted by luriete at 1:57 PM on September 10, 2004

The number seems big to you, but not to them. For my claim, they accepted owners manuals in lieu of receipts too, which helped a lot. They didn't challenge me at all -- I guess my list seemed reasonable to them -- I know I didn't pad it or anything but I didn't have any pictures or proof beyond manuals for the big electronics so I was happily surprised. I did only get replacement value, but that was good enough for me.
posted by dness2 at 2:03 PM on September 10, 2004

I recommended the photography of valuables not just for proof (as dness2 points out, a decent insurance company [hint: if they advertise on TV, they're probably not decent] will trust you), but so that you can remember what you own. For a fun exercise, see if you can think of your ten most valuable possessions. (No peeking!) Then walk around your home and see what you missed.
posted by waldo at 4:01 PM on September 10, 2004

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