It is the time that all jewelers dread. You arrive in the morning to open your store and are met by police cars, a back door breached, a window broken, or a roof compromised. Inside you find destroyed showcases, broken glass all over the floor, inventory missing, and an empty safe standing open. Or you drive up to your store only to see fire engines and smoke blurring the scene. It’s a good thing you have an insurance policy. But wait!
Where is my policy?
Am I covered for all of this?
Where do I call to get help with my claim?
What am I supposed to do while I wait for the insurance adjuster?
How am I going to prove what I lost?
Of course, this is the worst time to be asking any of these questions. All of these should have been answered long before this particular morning. Many of you already have the answers. For those who don’t know exactly what steps to take after a catastrophic event, here are some steps to take now to have the answers ready when you need them.
- Make duplicate copies of all inventory invoices, bookkeeping, employee records, and computer backups. In other words, make backups of your backups in either hard copy or digital. Keep them current. Do this on an ongoing basis, every week is best, to make sure the information is up to date at any point in time.
- Take 360-degree videos of your store including work area, back room, sales floor, offices, everything. Take your time and move slowly with the video. This will serve as the fastest means for an insurance adjuster to determine the fixtures and condition of your store before the event.
- Keep all insurance and back up documents away from the store in a secure location that you can easily access in case of a loss. This includes everything: insurance policy, proof of inventory, video documentation of premises, the backups of your backups – everything.
- Read your insurance policy carefully and understand your responsibilities to mitigate losses after the event.
- Understand in advance how claims will be handled after the event occurs. Talk to your insurance agent to make sure you understand the claims handling procedures of your policy. Know what is covered and what may not be covered.
- Know in advance where to call your adjuster in case of a catastrophic event.
- Call your insurer’s claims office before you start cleaning up. Secure the area to mitigate further loss, but do not start the clean up until the adjuster has the opportunity to inspect and evaluate the damage fully.
- Once you evaluate your policy coverage and how claims are handled, you may want to consider getting a Business Umbrella Policy. This is a special policy that provides coverage above the limits of your regular Business Owners Policy (BOP). It can provide extra liability coverage for your store on many levels.
These are just some points to help you be prepared when a loss occurs. As a Property and Casualty Insurance Adjuster, I have experienced far too many jewelers who waited until after a catastrophic event to even know where their insurance policy was located. Very often, it burned up in the fire since they kept it in a desk drawer rather than a safe place off premises. Many did not even know how or where to contact the claims office of their insurer. Do not be that jeweler.
There is already a lot of stress and confusion when a major loss occurs. That is not the time to decide you need to find out how to file an insurance claim and what you will need to do so.
Take those steps now.
Robert James FGA, GG, is a Property and Casualty Adjuster and President of the International School of Gemology. Visit the ISG website to learn more about ISG’s world-class programs in gemology and jewelry appraisal at low tuition rates.