What to do in a disaster

Would you know what to do if a disaster occurred at your home? These 12 steps can help restore your peace of mind.


Would you know what to do if a disaster occurred at your home? There are so many things to consider that you may feel overwhelmed. These 12 steps will help settle your claim and restore your peace of mind.

First Hours

1. Notify your insurer
Contact your broker or insurer and detail the disaster to the best of your ability. If possible, have your policy number at hand.


2. Keep Damage to a Minimum
While you must take steps to limit or minimize damage, make no permanent repairs without consulting your insurer. Where possible, document the disaster with photos or video. If there is water damage, remove the water as quickly as possible to prevent mould. When disposing of water-damaged items, be sure to photograph and describe them for the claim. If there is a fire, do not enter the site unless authorized by the proper authorities.


3. Authorizing Emergency Work
Emergency work may be needed to prevent damage from worsening. You can hire a disaster restoration firm, or your insurer may suggest one and even send it to the site. However, before the work starts, be sure you understand what the firm does and how much it will cost.

4. Meeting with Your Claims Adjuster
The insurer will assign an adjuster to settle your claim. The adjuster will guide you through the process, investigate the cause of the incident, estimate damages, and negotiate a settlement with you.


5. Determining the Scope of Your Coverage with the Claims Adjuster
The claims adjuster will explain your policy’s coverage and, where applicable, how to obtain an additional living allowance (if you need to leave your home, etc.). Keep all receipts for disaster-related expenses as they may be reimbursable.


If you need to store household effects, carefully choose the ones you want to keep with you as it may be hard to gain access to them or find specific items in your boxes.

Practical Tips

  • Confirm with your insurer that your policy covers the emergency measures in question.
  • Assess the situation before approving the demolition or replacement of certain materials, and keep samples of the ones to be replaced.
  • Do not allow any of your property to be moved before doing an inventory and documenting its condition (recoverable, total loss, etc.).
  • Know the facts before signing an assignment of claim (see our advice in the “Should I sign an assignment of claim?” box).
  • Keep track of work done by the disaster restoration firm (for example, after a fire, the supplier may take your clothing to be cleaned though it might be better and cheaper to replace old clothes or wash them yourself). If your policy has restrictions (e.g., $15,000 maximum for basement water backup), you may have to make decisions about the use of your insurance benefit. Get a quote before the restoration is done, and inform the adjuster of your plans so a large part of your benefit is not used to clean your old clothes or restore things of little value.
  • Note the team leader’s name, the number of people on site, hours worked, and the emergency work conducted (see the Chambre de l’assurance de dommages [ChAD] Claimant’s Checklist).
  • Keep close track of the work. It’s your home, after all…

Claim Settlement Process

6. Determining the Event’s Cause
This is done by the claims adjuster, who surveys the damage, confirms your initial statement of claim, and consults specialists if necessary. At the adjuster’s request, you must provide information or documents to determine the event’s cause. Based on the findings, the adjuster may confirm whether the claim is admissible under your policy.


7. Damage Estimate
The claims adjuster must also estimate the damages and determine the benefit amount to be offered. The adjuster will sometimes be assisted by an appraiser or other specialists. However, it is up to you to fully document and support your claim, including an inventory of damaged, destroyed, or stolen items, with as much proof of possession as possible (invoices, photos, etc.). Indicate each item you wish to recover in the cleanup and those that seem irrecoverable (though only the adjuster can declare an asset a total loss).


The sooner you submit the inventory, the faster your claim will be processed. Keep in mind that the insurer may reject your claim if it includes too many items or has items that are overvalued. Use the Personal Property Inventory template at chad.ca.


8. Choosing a Contractor
You are free to choose a contractor to carry out repairs or to do them yourself. Insurers may also recommend suppliers with which they have existing agreements. Either way, the decision is yours. However, you must discuss it with the claims adviser when negotiating settlement terms, which may differ if you do the work yourself.


9. Authorizing the Work
Review work specifications while taking care to verify allocated amounts (e.g., for reconstruction and storage, items to be cleaned, repaired, and replaced, and time frames for doing so). Confirm everything with the adjuster and check whether your policy has a total indemnity envelope or fixed “expenditure items.” If you have a coverage restriction, you may need to prioritize between repairs to your home and replacement of damaged items.


Should I sign an assignment of claim?
The restoration firm, contractor, or supplier may ask you to authorize an assignment of claim allowing the insurer to pay them directly for their work. You are under no obligation to sign this document. While assignment of claim makes it easier to pay suppliers, it can make it hard to track work expenses. To retain some control of your total payout, you can ask that the assignment of claim specify a maximum cost for work to be done. You can also require a signed letter of satisfaction before the last cheque is issued, or request that the insurer make the contractor’s last cheque payable to both your names. This way, you can avoid signing a blank cheque with your assignment of claim and confirm that the work is done to your full satisfaction before final payment is made.

10. Negotiating a Settlement
When the claims adjuster has the damaged property inventory with the provenance and current replacement value of your assets, the adjuster can determine the settlement offer based on your policy’s coverage, restrictions, and exclusions, including replacement or depreciated value.


If you have replacement value coverage, your items will be repaired or replaced with new ones of the same type and quality even if the replacements cost more than the original. However, if you choose not to repair or replace certain items, the insurer will pay you based on the actual cash value of damaged items while accounting for depreciation.


Before repairing, cleaning, or replacing your property, carefully review the settlement offer to make sure it’s acceptable. If it is not, there is room to negotiate.


11. Benefit Payment and Deductible
Based on the extent of the damages, payments are made throughout the settlement process as contractor invoices are submitted. Be sure to tell your insurer whether you are satisfied with the work before it pays the contractor. If the damages do not exceed coverage limits, your deductible will be withheld from the indemnity or the insurer will ask you to pay it directly to the contractor.


12. Claiming the Deductible from a Liable Third Party
If a third party is liable for damages, you may claim from said party reimbursement for your deductible and for damages not covered by your insurer. Remember that there are time limits for doing this. Ask the adjuster for more information and consult a lawyer if necessary. A Form Letter for this can be found at chad.ca.

Did you know?

The insurer must not only restore your property to its previous condition. It must also pay you within 60 days of receiving your claim, relevant information, and any other supporting documents it may have requested.


Download the guide

Claimant’s Handbook

To help you understand the claim settlement process and play an active role in it, conduct follow-ups, and maintain a reference guide on all necessary aspects, ChAD created the Claimant’s Handbook. A word of advice: Read it at least once and keep a copy in your files in case you need it one day.