First Notice of Loss (FNOL)

The first step in the claims process where the policyholder reports a loss to their insurance company

What is the First Notice of Loss (FNOL)?

For many people, the only time they contact their carrier is on the day they buy their homeowners insurance. But some, unfortunately, will have to call their insurance carrier because they suffered a loss. This call is the FNOL, and it starts the ball rolling on your insurance claim.

When do homeowners encounter an FNOL?

Many homeowners may never hear the term “first notice of loss,” including those that have to file a claim. This is because calling either your insurance company is almost instinctual after an event causes a loss. In many cases, that phone call is their FNOL. Others may come across the term in the claims section on their insurance company’s website or on official intake forms their insurer asks them to complete.

Ultimately, don’t be alarmed if you never hear this term. Your claims representative will take information about your loss and process the next steps of the claim whether you officially call it an FNOL or not.

How a first notice of loss works

You initiate an FNOL when you experience a loss by calling your insurance company. For example, you may call your insurer after:

  • Your home is burglarized.
  • A kitchen fire.
  • Your guest slips on your icy driveway.
  • A tree limb shatters your picture window.

Whatever the loss is, you must contact your insurance company to inform them that you need to file a claim. You can usually find contact information for your insurer’s claims department on its website.

On the call, your claims representative will ask for certain information. This usually includes:

  • Your policy number.
  • The date, time, and location of the loss.
  • A description of the damages.
  • Circumstances around the loss.
  • A police report in cases of theft.
  • Witness’ names and addresses for liability claims.

This is usually enough information for the representative to start a claim on your policy. The representative takes down all the information, assigns you a claim number, and notifies the claims department to put your issue in its queue for an adjuster to handle.

Once the claim is started, you will likely face additional questions as the adjuster investigates your loss. as well as more paperwork. But it all starts with the FNOL.

Why is an FNOL important?

First and foremost, an FNOL is important because your insurer can’t know that you had a loss unless you tell them about it. Your FNOL alerts your insurer to your issue and allows them to collect key details about the incident so they can properly process the claim.

The details in your first notice of loss also help your insurer decide if a claim should be filed. The different coverages in your home insurance are triggered by certain circumstances, and in some cases, the circumstances you describe may not cause your coverage to kick in.

In other cases, policy features may make a claim unnecessary. For example, say your $1,500 bike was stolen from your home, so you call your insurance company, give them your policy number, and describe the event. The representative, however, notices that your deductible is $2,000 and tells you it’s not worth filing a claim since the value of your bike is less than your deductible. Essentially, the FNOL gives the insurance company its first opportunity to assess whether or not your claim might be covered.

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