Setting Things in Motion for your Insurance Claim

Hess Collection

Hess Collection

Since the weekend, my thoughts have been occupied by the earthquake suffered in Napa Valley. It’s easy to see why: Napa Valley has been a daily news item since August 23, and stories abound about loss and tragedy. Even my local magazine feed has a story this morning about earthquake survival in “The Style Maven’s Earthquake Survival Kit.” While yesterday's notes about protecting prized art possessions, “Do You Have What It Takes To Protect Your Artwork?” seems too little too late, it’s never late to set things in motion for insurance.

When we chose to live in California, people exclaimed, time and again, “I could never live in earthquake country!” Understandably, as there is something inherently sneaky about an earthquake. By definition, an earthquake is no different from any other natural disaster - a geophysical event that causes loss and damage. Whether earthquake, fire, flood, hurricane, or tornado, such events are generally out of our control and occur with very little warning.

Aware of this, insurance companies in California, where earthquakes are anticipated natural events, require us to pay a special premium if we choose to insure against loss and damage caused by earthquakes.

A simple internet search using “earthquake insurance” pulls up a handful of companies that offer earthquake insurance. The search also offers articles on whether earthquake insurance has value, with stories published by CNN (August 24) and Bloomberg (August 25) discussing why Californians don’t have earthquake insurance.

If you own a fine art collection, you probably have earthquake insurance, so here are some things to consider if your artwork was damaged and you wish to prepare an insurance claim:

  1. If you suspect your artworks or collection have been damaged, prepare to organize your insurance claim by reviewing the latest copy of your insurance policy for exact coverage and/or exclusions;
  2. Contact and notify your insurance agent about your claim;
  3. Take photographs of damaged artwork as proof, and save the images in a safe place;
  4. Assess the insurance adjustor assigned to evaluate your claim; and decide whether you trust the adjustor’s competence;
  5. Hire professional appraisers and conservators to provide solutions for difficult and unusual losses. They will assess and document the damage within their field of specialty, which is especially important if you don’t trust your assigned insurance adjustor’s competence;
  6. Give your insurance company a list documenting your claim. Make sure your claim is supported by professional assessments.

For homeowners, if your home has been damaged, the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) recommends that you sign up for an immediate home inspection. This is for your safety and to determine the amount of damage covered by your insurance (