Are you protected by your homeowners insurance?

LOS ANGELES

A huge tree fell on Michael Matra's house last summer due to high winds. A year later, he's still trying to get the insurance company to pay for damages.

"They didn't come through with paying for damage of the landscaping, the rock wall, the sidewalk. There was some internal stuff that they have not taken care of yet at this point," said Matra.

Discrepancies between the payment a homeowner expects and what an insurer actually covers are not unusual, according to Consumer Reports National Research Center. It surveyed more than 11,000 subscribers who've filed claims in the past few years.

"We found for large claims - when the damage was $25,000 or more - 19 percent of the people we polled did not agree with the amount their insurers wanted to pay," said Amanda Walker, senior editor, Consumer Reports.

Some of the lower-rated national insurers are big-name companies, including Farmers Insurance and Allstate.

"But we also found most people were very satisfied with their insurer," said Walker.

Among the top-rated home insurers in the Consumer Reports survey are Amica and USAA, a company that primarily serves families with some connection to the military.

"If you've got a large claim and you're not happy with the amount your insurer is offering to pay, try disputing it," said Walker. "People with a large claim that did so received $6,000 more on average than those who did not."

When disputing an insurance claim:

- Request a meeting to review your estimate line by line.

- Ask to see specific contract language if you're told your policy does not cover the damage. As a last resort, consider getting a public adjuster.

- And be sure you read your policy over carefully before disaster strikes to make sure it's up to date and covers what you expect it to.

Since rates are expected to rise again this year there are two ways you can cut costs: Get your home and car insurance with the same company, and consider increasing your deductible from $500 to $1,000.

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