They say a picture is worth a thousand words. There is perhaps no context in which this adage holds truer than in a flood claim. While receipts, estimates, and engineer reports can be used to help back-up the extent of your loss and the scope of repairs needed, sometimes an actual look into a chaos proves to be the squeakiest wheel. Of course, the adjusting process is supposed to be fair and unbiased, but if that were truly the case, lawyers like us would not have the extensive property casualty client base that we do. Visual appeals can often strike the most emotional chord that could potentially prevent adjusters from behaving dubiously, resulting in having to make an additional bad faith claim. But beyond the visceral reaction one might have when presented with photos of a flooded home, photos serve quite a pragmatic purpose in terms of getting proper compensation during a loss.
As an integral part in the process of documenting your claim, it’s important to know what kinds of photos you need, as well as how to keep them safe and ready to share with your attorney. Let’s start from the top:
It is important that your insurance company has an understanding of the state of your home prior to the loss. As a result, it is ideal to be proactive and take about 10-15 photos of your home prior to rainy season. Important components of your home include flooring, basic room layouts, and major fixtures, like appliances. A few general outside photos from your block, as well as closer to your home’s foundation may also not hurt. If you are researching photo documentation because you have already experienced a loss, fear not. Take some time to go through your phone or Facebook and see if you can find more casual snapshots of your home’s interior. It’s okay if they’re from before a school dance or a family get together—as long as your home’s key features are visible in the background, this kind of documentation should be sufficient.
In the immediate wake of a loss, it may be hard to face the extreme degree of devastation, particularly through a camera lens. While you may not want to remember one of the hardest events of your life, snapshots are what will help you overcome your loss. This period is perhaps one of the most crucial to document. The most important advice to bear in mind is that it is your home that your photos should directly address. While flooded out streets may seem like the more astonishing event, snapping the height of water in your home is what is going to shed light on necessary drywall replacement. If you had to evacuate prior to getting a photo, snap the remaining watermark once you’ve regained access. Holding a ruler or tape measure next to the waterline is also a wise move. Warped floor boards, mold, and other kind of common water damage should also be photographed, as should damaged items of value if you have contents coverage. For electronics and appliances specifically, hone in on the serial number or any identifying factors of make, model, or age.
As you begin the arduous cleanup process, make sure that the hard work of you and/or your contractor is pictured. Installation and completed repairs can, too, speak to the scope of work done, thus directly correlating with your level of compensation from your insurance company. Once you have before, during, and after captured, keep your pictures organized. Photo collage apps can help consolidate a series of similar images. Even if you took film pictures, make sure they are backed up digitally. Libraries, shipping stores, or your attorney’s office can help the technological aspect go more smoothly. Online file depositories can help retain space on your phone or computer, as well as make sharing them with your attorney fast and easy.
The great aspect of insurance photography is that once you’re complete, your attorney can take it from there. Combined with your receipts and invoices regarding out-of-pocket spending on your home repairs, lawyers can present a comprehensive report using your photos to help settle your claim. In the worst-case scenario of having to go before a judge to hold your insurance company to its contractual obligation, photos hold gravitas in court. While it is easy for your insurer to adjudicate your claim from the comfort of an office, glimpses into your hardship are hard to argue with.