Knowing what to have on hand before making a claim can make all the difference. And keeping your cool while sticking to procedures after the damage has occurred is also of the utmost importance. You'll find the below checklist, which is compiled together in hopes of helping anyone going through the process of making a property claim.

What to Do Before Damage Occurs

Many things are best done before an incident has happened. This includes documenting the property, reviewing your insurance policy, and gathering a team of professionals that you can rely on in a time of need. These might seem like little steps, but they can make a big difference when a crisis arrives at your door.

Document Conditions

Make sure you have high-quality photos and good documentation of the entire commercial property. Being able to prove what was where will be vital to showing the extent of the damage. Be thorough when taking photos, and be sure to capture everything from multiple angles. Refresh your documentation annually or whenever significant changes have been made.

Review a Copy of Your Insurance Policy

Before things get hectic is the best time to familiarize yourself with your commercial property insurance policy. Doing this will let you know what your costs are and what sort of coverage you can expect. Now is also a good time to review your policy and consider its overall cost.

But what should you do when considering the cost of commercial property coverage? Several factors can contribute to the cost of commercial property insurance. Some of the primary considerations will be the size of the property and what it is used for, the property's location, the limits to the coverage, and past claims history. But, of course, there can be other factors to consider as well, which is why it is best to talk to an insurance professional who will be more than happy to evaluate the property's insurance needs.

Gather a Team of Worst-Case-Scenario Professionals

Finally, before damage has happened is also the best time to connect with experts whose knowledge you may rely on after an incident. This will include building relationships with white-collar and blue-collar professionals. You will want a lawyer and accountant with expertise in commercial property and insurance claims to help make sure things proceed smoothly. A good general contractor is also a must-have for any commercial property manager's speed dial.

What to Do After Damage Has Happened

Oh, no! The worst has happened, and you've sustained damage that will force you to make a commercial property insurance claim. Try not to panic. This is the situation that you've prepared for. Keep a level head and proceed as planned. The following items on the checklist are good to keep in mind to ensure the success of the claim process.

Make Sure Everything is Safe and Secure

After anything has happened that will result in an insurance claim, the first thing to do is ensure that property and people are now safe and secure. This should be of paramount concern. Do a headcount for anyone who may have been at the property at the damage. Make sure their health is okay. Inspect the property and ensure there is no further risk of injury or destruction.

At this point, it's appropriate to make sure the property is secured. Contact utility companies to cut service if necessary. Cover any broken windows or doors.

Document Everything

Once everything is safe and secure, documentation should begin. Take photos of everything. Even damage that may seem insignificant should be documented. Video can also be a valuable tool in this regard. Calling the cops to obtain an official police report is always a good idea for insurance purposes. Some jurisdictions will allow citizens to obtain or file police reports online, saving a trip down to the station. Others will require that you come in to get a copy of your police report. One example is Los Angeles, where police reports can be obtained from records and identification (R&I) 24/7.

Not sure where to start? FEMA has an explainer for documenting flood damage that others can use when making their non-flood insurance claims. Once thoroughly documented, cleaning everything up can begin.

Get in Touch with Your Insurance Company and File a Claim

After you've gathered evidence of your accident, you should get in touch with your insurance representative and figure out the process for filing a claim with your specific insurance provider. Of course, your insurance company will want to know what happened to the best of your knowledge. You should also turn over any documentation of the damage and related costs you've incurred.

Keep Track of Your Out-of-Pocket Costs

If you remember one piece of advice, let it be this: keep your receipts! It will be essential to prove what you've spent if you plan on being reimbursed for it later. Even if you deal in cash, make sure you use invoices or some sort of paper trail that can be tracked for insurance and tax purposes. Not sure what you should replace immediately and what you should wait on? Check out the Insurance Information Institute's explainer for more on the details of documenting post-damage costs.

Tap into Your Team of Pros

It is at this point that you'll be happy that you already have qualified experts that you can rely on now that things have gotten serious. Your lawyer or accountant can help with the insurance process and any related tax implications. Also get quotes from your contractor for any work to be done. (Get additional quotes as well, most insurance companies will require at least two.)

Track Your Claim and Take Care of Your Business

It can take days to hear back from your insurance company, and it may be months before an insurance claim is approved. In this time, be patient. Be open and communicative with your claims adjuster.

But most importantly, take whatever steps are most important for your business. No matter how significant the damage is, the recovery of the business should always be prioritized. At the end of the day, if you don't advocate for your own survival, don't expect anyone to do it for you.