Filing an Insurance Claim in Spain: A Trip Through the Bureaucratic Jungle

When my husband and I bought our townhouse in Spain in 2010, we were required to get homeowner’s insurance for the property. As a result, we have been paying an annual premium of over €300 ever since for this benefit. Up until this year, we have never filed a claim.

However, this summer our awning broke amid several days of high winds in the area. It would neither expand nor contract and one of the two awning arms was broken. The salesman who sold us a new awning suggested we file a claim with our homeowners insurance company, Liberty Seguros, to get reimbursed for the cost of a new awning. Okay, I thought, I can do that. Ha ha. Little did I know how difficult this entire experience was going to be.

Of course, step one for filing a claim is to know your insurance policy number. I did not have this important information nor was I ever given it by our Bankinter bank. So after trying to file a claim without the policy number and getting nowhere, I went to Bankinter and was able to find out our policy number after a 20 minute wait to see the teller who then had to consult with the bank manager. I got the impression from the experience that asking for one’s insurance policy number was not frequently done there.

When I called Liberty Seguros again with the policy number and told them I had filed a claim via email a few weeks earlier as instructed, they didn’t seem to know why no adjuster had come out to inspect the property or see the photos of the damaged awning. I conducted these conversations in both English and Spanish.

After spending more than 30 minutes on hold and then talking to at least five different people, (“That’s a different department,” said several), one sharp-eyed staff member finally realized that my mobile phone number was incorrect! So this was rectified and I was told I would receive a phone call the next day regarding scheduling the adjuster to visit. Miraculously, I did receive a call the next day from a scheduler who assured me the adjuster would be visiting our house the following day.

One week passed and no adjuster ever called. I called back the phone number for the scheduler but the phone message said that that particular number doesn’t accept calls. Figures! That would have been too easy.

By now I was really frustrated and decided I would speak only Spanish to these insurance staff members no matter what! No asking if anyone spoke English. That just slowed everything down and made filing a claim harder. When I called the advertised Liberty Seguros number, I had to wait on hold for 30 minutes before talking to anyone at all. Then I was transferred several times, despite speaking Spanish. Finally I was able to make myself understood that no adjuster had come in the eight weeks since I filed a claim. At last, someone said (in English !) to hold on another minute and I thought maybe I was getting somewhere. Then I was disconnected! Ugh.

I decided to try calling again the next week but was actually contacted by an adjuster the following day. Amazing! He came to our house eight weeks after I had filed a claim and wrote up his report after viewing photos of the damaged awning and seeing the invoice for the cost of a new awning (€3170 plus IVA).

I asked the adjuster how I would know if and when we would receive a settlement offer and he suggested calling our agent. But we never had an agent! We bought our insurance through the bank. Here’s one lesson l learned from this arduous experience. Don’t buy insurance through a bank! It might be convenient at the time but it will be very difficult to file a claim later. Be prepared for endless time spent on hold and getting the runaro

Two weeks later I got an email from Liberty Seguros that included a settlement offer for the broken awning. There was no explanation included for what we were supposed to do with the letter. For example, do we sign it? If so, where should we send it? Of course everything was also in Spanish and you can’t always rely on Google translate for an accurate translation of the legalese.

I called one of the people mentioned in the settlement offer and asked her what to do. Thankfully, she explained what to do: sign and then email back the letter. Then she texted me the wrong email address and had to send me an email with the correct address. Sigh.

So here’s hoping we finally get reimbursed for the cost of the new awning, minus IVA taxes. I don’t know why they won’t pay the €665 in taxes but I think it’s past time to declare victory and climb out of the insurance claims rabbit hole now. I can pursue IVA reimbursement another day.

Pro tip: Buy homeowner’s insurance from a reputable agent, not from a bank. Also, remember to use the Spanish word for a claim. That is siniestro. It reminds me of the English word sinister which means to “give the impression something harmful will happen.” Yes, trying to file an insurance claim with a big and unresponsive company without an agent is like navigating through the jungle without a guide or a map. You don’t know what you are doing or where you are going. You just hope to make it out alive.


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