THE SWORN PROOF OF LOSS (POL) —THE MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENT YOU WILL SIGN WHEN FILING AN INSURANCE CLAIM:
My timing on providing this information was intentionally delayed until now because the time has arrived when you are bound to start seeing this document crop up. This one little document (the POL) can set the stage for everything that occurs on your claim going forward, it can cause a denial of your claim, it can destroy your claim if not filed or not filed on time and it can also be the root of all leverage you have to start the clock moving and to force your insurer into taking action. Whatever you do, file this form timely, file it accurately and don’t file it until you know the amount of loss you are claiming.
If any insurance adjuster asks you to sign one of these forms make sure you have confirmed that everything on the form is 100% accurate and this is especially the case on a flood claim. Some insurance adjusters will attempt to secure your signature on one of these forms even when you may not agree with the amount of loss by stating: “just sign this POL and you can always supplement later”. As the name implies, this is a sworn document and it may be used against you. Some insurance adjusters are not allowed to turn in their file and bill for their time until you have signed a proof of loss so there is an incentive for them to work with you to get it right. As the title of my post implies this will be the most important document you will sign, so I will start by giving you the basic components of a proof of loss and then I will then outline time frame requirements of several types of POL forms based on the insurer.
POL documents typically have the following information on them:
- The date of loss.
- The type of loss (ie flood, wind, etc)
- The insurance policy number
- The insurance claim number
- The address of the loss
- The use of the property (ie dwelling, business etc)
- The mortgage company
- Coverage amounts at the time of loss
- Anyone having an interest in the loss
- A place for you to sign and sometimes a spot for a notary
- Finally, there will be some scary language at the bottom of many that warn you against defrauding insurance companies.
There is not one form that fits every situation and they vary widely depending on the policy and policy language. The flood claim POL is very different than a TWIA POL or and that is very different from a standard homeowners POL. In almost every case you will find the requirements of what has to be included on the POL within the language of the policy. You will also find within the policy language, the time frame within which you must file a POL. Unfortunately most POL language is buried in the middle of the policy in a benign looking paragraph. Because this is such a key component to a claim, our company has long petitioned folks in Austin to make insurer’s put this language on one of the first few pages of the policy in big bold print so you can’t miss it and I have often wondered if burying the language in the middle of the policy is intentional, the old saying “it’s in the fine print” …but that is a discussion for another day.
POL TIME FRAME REQUIREMENTS BY INSURER:
TWIA: Texas Windstorm historically had a requirement that you file your POL within 91 days of their notice of claim acknowledgement. When you filed your claim you should have received a letter confirming your claim. Typically you would have 91 days from the date of that confirmation to complete and file your POL. TWIA was granted this time frame by the legislature a while back and it is in no way sufficient in times of a catastrophe. However, TWIA has now waived the POL requirement and removed this time frame from the policy.
FLOOD: The standard flood policy has a requirement that you submit your POL within 60 days from your date of loss. In plain language you have 60 days from the date you flooded. Unless NFIP (the National Flood Insurance Program) waives this time frame and extends this in writing, you must meet this deadline. If you blow this, you may be forever barred from recovering. However, I have some very good news for you. The NFIP has not only waived the requirement for a POL within 60 days, but you can now use it as a tool to petition for more funding if you don’t agree with the amount of loss allocated by your initial adjuster and you now have up 365 days from the date of loss to file this document. Additionally, FEMA has loosened the requirements concerning signing your adjuster’s initial report.
HOMEOWNERS: The POL requirements for time frames vary widely depending on the carrier. Review each policy on a case by case basis to determine what your policy may have. Generally, look for the portion of the policy that says “your duties after a loss” or the “loss payment” sections and you can usually find the POL requirements there. Again, these policies vary as to where this language is located.
The POL can be a complicated and potentially a game changing document when you have flood, wind or overlapping issues. If you have questions you can contact us at and we will do our best to answer them:
Unfortunately with our work load growing we may be slow to respond individually but we will do our best to get you the answers you need and I will continue to equip you with the knowledge I have gained from years past as a consultant to one of the largest insurers in the world and my current 20 years as a public adjuster. Disclaimer: At times the POL situation can meld into legal situations and we advise you to consult an attorney if there is any hint of this.
My upcoming posts will address what to do if you don’t agree with your adjusters assessment, what to be prepared for when the insurer sends out a “consultant” or engineer, what to do if your proof of loss is rejected, the subject of Co-Insurance and the topic of demanding appraisal, which you will probably see a lot of as this storm progresses. We will also be posting a comprehensive resources page for you.
Our extended family has place in PA and my wife and I have been bringing our kids there since they were young. The house was damaged and we are waiting in line to deal with our claim just like all of you.