How do RV Insurance Claims Work?
Here at Wild Mountain RV, we have completed hundreds of insurance claims over the years, and understand that it can be confusing. Not only are RV insurance claims not as prevalent as automotive or home claims, but different insurance companies work through claims in different ways. The process was confusing for us as well when we began working with insurance companies almost 10 years ago now, but we have developed a standard procedure that works for every claim.
We find that we spend a lot of time explaining the insurance process, and even thought we have a standard procedure, there are factors that influence how the claim will proceed which differs from person to person, so I thought I would write this post to explain in more detail how the process works.
You have sustained damage to your RV (trailer or motorhome); now what?
Step 1 – Pictures and Patch Up
If the initial damage could cause additional damage (say water entering and resulting in water damage), then before anything, take pictures of all the damage. Once you have taken pictures, then you need to patch up or cover any areas that could cause more damage. In many policies this is a requirement. We have seen insurance companies not cover water damage that occurred after the damage occurred because the owner did not do anything to prevent water getting in. Of course, this would not apply if the owner did not know about the damage; for example, if an RV sustains hail damage and the owner does not find out until a later date.
Similar to this, if the RV can not be driven or pulled (trailers) because the of the damage, and needs to be brought in for repair via a tow truck, ensure you take lots of pictures of your RV before being towed; especially for trailers. We have seen damage occur from the odd towing company and it can result in a fight with the towing company to have those damages taken care of.
Step 2 – Start an Insurance Claim
Call your insurance company and open a claim. There are limits on how much time you have to open a claim. Depending on your insurance policy, the limit varies from 90 days to 12 months from the date of loss or event. Make sure you have the details and date of the loss or event. If you have already brought the RV to a repair facility, let the insurance company know when opening the claim, and be able to provide the company name and address of the repair facility. For large claims they may want to send out an appraiser to assess the damage and condition of the RV.
Step 3 – Estimate
2 estimates are going to be prepared for repairs to your RV. The order of completion of these estimates will depend on the timing of the insurance company. One estimate will be prepared by Wild Mountain RV (the repair facility), and one will be prepared by the Insurance Appraiser (note: not the adjuster, that is a different insurance representative – I’ll explain later).
Insurance Company Estimate is prepared first – in this case, the appraiser has inspected the RV and prepared an estimate based on their assessment. When the RV is brought to us, we are given a copy of this approved estimate. We will then create our own estimate. We do this because often the estimates by the appraisers are not accurate – pricing incorrect, time required incorrect, or missing items all together. Generally, these appraisers are primarily automotive appraisers and do not have extensive experience with RVs, but they have formulas they use. One of the biggest problems we see is that these appraisers all use very different formulas and therefore we get varying estimates for the same items. Once we create our own estimate, we contact the appraiser to get approval. I would say about 75% of the time we need to contact appraisers in order to have them ‘Supplement’ their estimate. We have a strong reputation with the insurance companies, so we have yet to have any supplements denied.
Our Estimate is prepared first – this will happen if the RV owner brings their RV to us before the appraiser has a chance to inspect it, the claim has not been opened yet, or the insurance company has requested an estimate for repairs. We will inspect your RV, take pictures, and prepare an official estimate for repairs. We will then send this information to your insurance company or send it to you directly. Increasingly, insurance companies just take our estimate, approve it and we can move onto the next step. Sometimes (usually for very high claims, or unusual claims), the insurance company will send out an appraiser to assess the damage as well. Nearly 100% of the time, when this happens, the appraiser will take our estimate and copy it for their estimate (I believe this is also why insurance companies are doing this less and less as we have established our reputation for quality and honesty with insurance claims.
Step 4 – Approvals, Order Parts, and Repairs
Once our estimate is approved by the insurance company, we will contact you to give us the go-ahead for repairs.
We will order all the parts needed for the repairs. For common parts, this often does not take more than a week or so. For hard-to-find parts, or parts that need to come directly from RV Manufactures or suppliers, parts can take up to 2 months to arrive.
We will then complete all the repairs.
Step 5 – Supplements
If there are additional damages found during the repairs, we will contact the insurance company to let them know. These are called ‘Supplements’. For minor supplements we just go ahead with the repairs and submit pictures and pricing after the repairs are completed. For major supplements, we contact the insurance company for approval before preforming these repairs.
Step 6 – Payment and Pickup
Payment can get complicated. When the work is completed, we prepare 2 invoices. One invoice will be for the customer. It will list all the labour and parts used, and will be zeroed out (no cost). The deductible will be added, and that is all you have to pay. The second invoice will be made out to the insurance company and will include all the labour and parts, and have the deductible subtracted from the total.
Insurance companies can issue payments in multiple ways:
Send payment directly to Wild Mountain RV once the invoice is received. In this case you just pay your deductible and you’re on your way. This is usually done when the insurance company pays after the work is completed.
Send payment directly to Wild Mountain RV as a co-payable cheque (your name will also be on the cheque). In this case you will pay your deductible and endorse (sign) the co-payable cheque and be on your way. This situation happens when insurance companies pay the estimated amount before the work is completed. We hang onto the cheque until the work is done.
Send payment directly to you as a co-payable cheque. In this case you keep the cheque until you are ready to pickup the RV, you pay the deductible and hand over the endorsed cheque for payment. This situation happens when insurance companies pay the estimated amount before the work is completed.
Send payment directly to you in only your name. In this case you can deposit the cheque immediately, and will pay the deductible and the repair invoice when you pickup. Once again, this situation happens when insurance companies pay the estimated amount before the work is completed.
Note: no matter what payment method is used, supplements are usually paid out directly to us once they are submitted to the insurance company, no matter how the initial payment was issued.
Now this sounds fairly straightforward, but there are a number of situations that can make the process complicated, so here is a Q&A section that will explain some other scenarios:
What if I want to deal with the insurance company directly instead of having Wild Mountain RV do it?
You are more than welcome to take the lead, but then you are responsible for all payments and getting any supplements approved in case there is additional damages found. Also, sometimes supplements are issued to insurance companies for costs that were not accounted for or not known when estimating, for example shipping or brokerage charges. You would also have to pay for these and then look to get reimbursed from the insurance company after the work is completed.
What are my options if I take a payout for the repairs?
If you take a payout you can no longer submit any supplements for additional work or charges if they come up.
Once you agree to a payout, you can do anything you like with the money – in other words, you don’t have to get your RV repaired at all if you wish.
If I take a payout, or get paid directly from the insurance company, can I just choose to repair ‘some’ of the items or none at all?
You are free to do whatever you wish with the money, but there are a few things you should know first:
Insurance Estimates are created at a discounted rate. Repair facilities have discounted insurance rates for 2 reasons; the repair jobs are usually very large in scope, and the insurance companies provide lots of work to shops like Wild Mountain RV. In other words, if we did not discount our parts and labour for our insurance estimates, our estimates would not be approved and we would get less insurance work overall.
These discounted rates would not apply to someone who has taken a payout and then decided to only repair a few items on the list. In these cases, our regular rates would apply. If you as the customer still completed all the work from our original estimate, then those discounted prices will still apply.
If you take the money and do not get the repairs that were estimated (which is your choice), you can only claim for the same repairs again in the future if you can present an invoice of the repairs. For example: let’s say your roof has minor indents from hail, but the membrane is still good (no holes) and you choose not to have the roof and membrane replaced. If your RV gets hit with another hailstorm and the roof gets worse damage than before, the insurance company will not pay for this damage unless you can prove you had it repaired with the previous claim.
Can I choose to repair some of the items and get paid out for others?
Most likely ‘yes’. But it can get confusing, and you would have to take care of getting the pay out for the unrepaired items. When we submit an invoice for payment to the insurance company, it can only include the items that we repaired (for the reasons in the previous Q&A). So, we would get paid for the items repaired, and you would have to contact your insurance company for a payout for the items not repaired. This process and approval would vary depending on the insurance company, so it is recommended to contact them first.
Do I have to complete the repairs at Wild Mountain RV if they prepared the approved estimate?
No. In Alberta you are welcome to have your repairs completed at any repair facility you wish. The same applies if you have an estimate completed somewhere else and would like Wild Mountain RV to do the repairs. In this case we would still need to prepare our own estimate as the scope of work one shop might see as sufficient may not be the same for us.
What is the deadline for completing repairs?
In most cases you have 2 years (24 months) from the date of the incident or event. This means the work must be completed by that date. Insurance companies are often very strict about this but may extend the deadline if you explain why the timeline cannot be met.
What is the difference between an Adjuster and an Appraiser?
The insurance appraiser is the person who will write the estimate and decide what damages resulted from the incident or event. The appraiser either works for your insurance company directly or is an independent contractor. The appraiser will also need to approve supplements and other additional costs.
The adjuster is the insurance company employee who is in charge of the claim. The adjuster will decide if a claim is approved based on the policy coverage. Normally, if the costs for repairs fall within a certain percentage threshold (which varies) of the value of the RV, then the repairs will be approved. If the adjuster determines that the cost to repair is over the threshold, then the RV will be written off.
As a repair facility, we work mostly with the appraisers during any claim and only contact the adjuster for payment. As the insured, you should always contact you adjuster first if you have any concerns. Like I said, they are in charge of the claim and can override any decisions made by the appraiser.
At anytime you may request a new appraiser or adjuster, or if you feel that you are not getting the help you require from your adjuster, you can escalate your concern to a manager.
My RV has been written off, now what happens?
In most cases, you will be paid out directly by the insurance company, and they will contact us to make arrangements to have the RV picked up and brought to auction. You just need to come by and pickup all your personal belongings.
Insurance companies may give you the option to buy back your RV from them, and if they don’t, you can ask for that option.
What if we have plans to use the RV before the parts come in or there is room on the schedule?
No problem. We prefer to do large repair jobs in the fall/winter, so we will patch up or repair anything that is urgent (broken vent lids, loose siding), and you can continue using the RV until you are done for the season. This of course will not be an option if the RV is not able to travel on the road, but in most cases you should be able to use it. Once you are done for the season, you can bring it back to us and we will work on it in the ‘off season’. If we get the work done and it is winter and you are not able to pick up (or store it), you are free to leave it with us until the spring (April 1st is usually our deadline weather permitting). We only ask that you take the time to come and inspect the work so we can submit for payment when the work is done.
Are there any insurance claims that Wild Mountain RV does not take?
Not to date. We work on campers, tent trailers, pull trailers and 5th wheels, Class C’s and B’s, all the way to large diesel pusher Class A’s. Bodywork, paint, and decals are subcontracted to our partners who most often come to our location to complete the work ‘in-house’. RV Insurance claims often entail a combination of RV Technician repairs and Automotive Bodywork. This is why it can be difficult to find repair facilities which can complete the entire claim. Even if there is an item on the claim that we do not repair ourselves, we will find a qualified contractor, so you don’t have to.