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Pays to Read your Policies, Contracts and Agreements

I was raised in a public adjusting family. Being part of this family meant that I heard the words, “read the policy” a lot. I was taught that you should know the insurance policy like you know your Bible or if the Bible isn’t your thing, like the back of your hand.

Last year Donelan Andrews purchased a $400 travel policy from Squaremouth. She read the terms and conditions of the insurance policy right away. Inside the policy she found a provision that allowed a $10,000 prize to the first person who read and contacted the company with their find. Squaremouth called it the “Pays to Read” contest.

Part of the way we win our insurance claims is by reading the policy and using the language of the policy to hold the insurance company accountable for their own words. Doing this day in and day out you soon learn to read the fine print in your every day life as well. Reading the fine print is one of the most empowering things you can do in your life. Too often we are willing to accept injustices because we think we have no power to change our situation. Reading your contracts empowers you to either argue for what is due to you or gives you the assurance that you were not being taken advantage of in the first place. Either is empowering and freeing.

The following are three examples in my own life where I read the contract.

I purchased a new home. The home was a new build and we were purchasing straight from the builder. In one of our final walk throughs I noticed there were no towel bars or rings. I messaged the realtor and customer service team and they both responded that towel hardware is not provided by the builder. The realtor even responded by saying, “I know it’s weird but we stopped doing that a few years ago.” I then spoke with the construction supervisor on site who also said that the towel hardware would not be provided. I pulled out the long real estate contract and provisions and found where it stated what color the hardware would be. I forwarded the language and I am now living in a home with installed hardware!

My children are part of a soccer club. Over the last year I have felt frustrated by some of the management and processes I have seen. Other parents also expressed their concerns to me. I heard about a plethora of letters that were sent to the board to have some of these things addressed which never were. One day I mused that there must be something that actually holds the club accountable. I found the club bylaws and discovered that the club was required to have delegate meetings which would allow for every team to assign a delegate to represent their team. This would allow the delegates to attend meetings and have a vote in club business as well. Within months of bringing this to the board a delegate meeting was held. Complaints that were falling on deaf ears were now actually being heard.

A few years ago, I signed up with a chain gym. During the time period of the contract I underwent shoulder surgery. I contacted the local franchise to try and stop my membership. The club refused to stop or refund my membership fees. I talked to associates and the manager. They contended that they did not have to end my membership because of a surgery because there were accommodations they could make around the injury. Once I reviewed the contract I found the exact language that I was able to provide to the headquarters to get the contract cancelled and my prepaid monthly dues refunded.

There are other times when I haven’t won. Once I waited too long to submit a health insurance claim. It was denied. I read the policy and the time period of which a claim can be made was clearly less than the time I turned mine in. While I was disappointed in myself for not filing the claim in a timely matter, I at least had peace that there was nothing more I could do and that the company was honestly handling the claim.

Take control of your life and circumstances by committing to reading your policies and contracts. If you don’t do this before an issue arises it is not too late.    You might not ever find a $10,000 prize winning contest in your policy but you’ll find that it always pays to read those agreements.

Everything starts and ends with the insurance policy as it is the legal contract with the insurer. As my dad says, “the policy giveth and taketh away”.

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