Also, note the name and number of everyone you speak with during the claims process. That can help clear up any confusion that may arise along the way.
5. BE PREPARED TO NEGOTIATE
Once insurance adjusters look over the damage, they will determine the size of your payout.
But if that figure seems too low, there are ways to voice your disagreement and try to work out a better settlement.
You'll want to ask the adjuster to show you the contract language and justify the proposed amount.
If you're still dissatisfied, get a second or even third opinion on the cost of repairs from independent contractors. You can use that to argue for a bigger payout.
Ideally you can work it out with the adjuster, but if not, you can try to make your case with someone at the company's regional or national office.
"You need to be ready for a fight and be tough working with your insurance agent," says Jeff Blyskal, senior editor at Consumer Reports.
Another option to help bolster your case for a better settlement is to hire a public insurance adjuster.
They are experts on the insurance claims process and can assess the damage to a home and help build the case on behalf of the homeowner.
The insurance industry argues that public adjusters charge homeowners for services that homeowners can do themselves. Public adjusters typically charge 10 percent of the settlement amount.
Credited adjusters can be found at the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters' website, www.napia.com .
6. WATCH OUT FOR SCAM ARTISTS
Many homeowners want to immediately get started on repairing the damage to their property. This makes them targets by unscrupulous contractors looking to overcharge for repairs.
"Con artists will demand large cash deposits, or push you to sign a contract that might not be in your best interest," Salvatore says. "Don't be rushed into anything."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.