Every business owner’s nightmare is to open their doors to devastation. Here in California, that would likely be an earthquake. Or it could be a flood, fire, or some other calamity. Of course, the first number reached for is their insurance agent. This is a first step in what can be a somewhat complicated process. But there are ways to make it easier for all involved parties.

– Be sure you can contact your insurance agent and do so as soon as possible. Have phone numbers and email addresses where you can easily find them. Be sure to provide your policy number and business location, as well as any contact information.

– Review your policy carefully. Check your “declarations” page which will list what coverages you have. Make sure you have the current copy of your policy.

– Have handy any relevant business records that you will need to show the value of any damaged equipment, inventory or structures included in your claim. For business interruption claims, you will need proof of the income generated before the business was impacted.

– Keep a detailed record of all expenses incurred to protect or repair your business. If the business is forced to move or suspend operations, you will need to provide information on costs of conducting business from a temporary location, including detailed records of business activity, as well as ongoing expenses while your business is suspended (e.g., advertising, utilities).

– Photograph damage, including destroyed items–and ask your insurer before removing any debris. Generally you should not throw away any damaged items until the claims adjuster has visited.

– Once you have reported your claim, you should periodically check its status by phone or online to see if there is any additional information needed.

Of course, the best way to make the claims process go smoother is to do a policy review before you need to file a claim. Make an appointment with your insurance professional and make sure you have all the coverage you may need.