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How do I make an insurance claim?

Step 1: gather evidence

If you plan to lodge an insurance claim for damage to your home building or contents, it is important to gather as much information as you can to support your claim. You need to be able to prove your loss—this means that you need to provide evidence to prove what you owned. This would include:

  • making a list of damaged or destroyed items and any information about the date of purchase, model and make to support your claim
  • photographing and/or listing floorings or other furnishings such as curtains which you have had to discard
  • collecting documents that may be relevant to your claim such as receipts, warranties and credit card/bank statements showing your purchases
  • gathering photos, DVDs or videos in which your items appear
  • getting declarations from people who had seen the items.

The amount of evidence required by your insurer will depend on the nature and value of your claim. For building claims, expert reports might be needed about the cause of the damage, the extent of the damage and/or the appropriate way of putting things right. This will usually only become relevant if there is a dispute over your claim.

If your home or contents have been damaged by rainwater or floodwater, read the “How do I prove the cause of the damages?” section of this guide for information on the type of evidence you can gather to show how and when water entered your property.

Even after lodging your claim it is worth thinking about what evidence you can gather to help fast track your claim.

Step 2: lodge a claim

If you need an interpreter to put your claim together, let your insurer know this and ask them to pay for this service.

Most claims start with a phone call to your insurer. When making a claim over the phone, be brief and precise. Ask family, friends or support agencies for help to lodge your insurance claim as soon as you are able. It is worth making notes of any conversations with your insurer, including the time, date, who was there and what was said, as your claim progresses.

Once you have lodged your claim your insurance company may ask for more information. Seek legal advice if you cannot provide information or documents requested by the insurer.

Step 3: visit by insurance assessors/adjusters

Insurers employ assessors to investigate claims. The insurer may send an assessor or an adjuster to consider your claim. This will usually happen in large claims for home and/or contents insurance. You should cooperate with them, but remember part of their role is to make sure all possible reasons for refusing a claim have been considered.

The assessor may interview you, neighbours, witnesses and review police reports. If you feel you are being unfairly treated by the assessor you should seek advice or help—for example, you may want to ask for an interpreter, or a friend to sit in on any interviews. If you are unhappy about your treatment, write to the insurer about your concerns and outline what you want the insurer to do or change.

For example, you might disagree with the assessor’s version of events (ie the order and timeline of events that happened). Explain in writing:

  • what you feel is wrongly understood
  • explain the order and timeline of events as you understand them
  • why your version of events is more probable.

Do not sign any document until you understand what it means

If an assessor asks you to sign a statement, ask them if you can take it away and look at it, rather than signing it on the spot. If you are unsure about signing it, get legal advice. Legal Aid Queensland can assist with free legal advice about documents your insurer asks you to sign such as an insurance release form.

What if I’m told to drop my claim?

You should get urgent legal advice if the assessor wants you to drop your claim or is suggesting a version of events that is likely to end in your claim being refused or reduced.

What if my house needs emergency repairs?

With a large scale disaster, there may be a general response from your insurer letting all those affected by the disaster know what your insurer expects you to do. Check with your insurer.

If possible, talk to your insurer before touching or moving anything in your home after an insurable event (such as a fire, storm or theft). In the event of criminal activity (such as a break and enter) contact the police. If your home is exposed to further damage from the weather, or your premises can no longer be secured (for example, locks, windows or doors have been broken), only do what is necessary to prevent further damage or loss. Your insurer will want an assessor to examine the damage before making a decision in relation to your claim, and will want to approve a repairer.

If you go ahead with repairs it would be useful to take “before” and “after” photos of the house and its contents as evidence of repairs required. Keep any receipts of payment made.

What if my property and contents were damaged by water?

If your house and contents were damaged by a deluge of water it is possible your insurance policy will not pay for flood damage, but it may pay for other types of water damage. Read your policy carefully. Read the “My home and contents have been damaged by water—what do I need to know?” section and subsequent sections of this guide before you put your claim together.

It may be important to prove to your insurer that your property was damaged by rain and storm water before it was inundated by flood water. If you have any eyewitness accounts of what happened and when, you should record the order of events. This would include when the rain deluges occurred, what your neighbours saw, what you saw, when the water levels began to rise, and what height the water reached.

Insurance policies differ in their coverage of damage incurred by rainwater and/or flooding. If this affects you please read the “Rainwater versus floodwater — what does my policy cover?” section of this guide for more information on how to progress your claim.

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