What am I required to do when I have an insurance claim?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 11, 2010

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Every insurance policy specifies certain duties that an insured must perform after a loss has occurred. The exact duties vary among different policies and will be different for property damage claims than for liability claims. These duties are usually included in the section of the insurance policy entitled “Conditions,” since failure by the insured to perform one or more of these duties could relieve the insurance company of its obligation to pay the claim — i.e., the insured’s duties are a contractual “condition” of the insurance company’s obligation to perform its duties under the policy.

Policies usually require an insured to give “prompt notice” of any loss, including basic information about what property was damaged or the time and place of an accident or injury. If there has been property damage, the insured will be obligated to take reasonable steps to protect the property from further damage. If there is a theft loss, policies often require that the police must be notified. In the event of a liability claim, you must promptly send the insurance company copies of any notices or other legal papers you receive. For a claim under a life insurance policy, you may be required to provide a copy of the death certificate for the insured person. Almost all property and liability policies contain a general requirement that the insured must cooperate with the insurance company in the investigation, settlement or defense of the claim.

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