A friend of mine recently had an issue with their renter’s insurance company. Very responsibly, she took out an all-risk policy, also called a comprehensive policy sometimes, and she kept up her payments diligently.

So, when there was a fire in the apartment next to hers, and most of her property was destroyed, she expected to get a quick response from her insurance company with a big check to get her life back on track. She’s still waiting.

In researching about this, I’ve discovered this is an unfortunately common issue for those who go to the trouble and expense of purchasing good insurance policies. Some insurance companies have a reputation for dragging their feet and trying to underpay, apparently.

So, what should you do? What should my friend do? That’s what I’ve been researching lately, and it seems there are a few things you can do to make sure you get the payout you deserve based off your policy.

First things first, you should understand your policy. My friend has had to become well-versed in insurance policies recently because she signed up for her policy based mostly on reputation instead of reading all the documents she was signing. She’s still covered, but those pages and pages of documents contained important information that she should have been aware of from the beginning.

Having a decent understanding of what you’re signing is always important. We all know that. Yet we constantly sign things without reading what we’re signing away. We sign up for social media without understanding what the companies will do with our data. We agree to terms for iTunes and apps without even reading the first line.

The same goes for insurance policies, and it leaves us very exposed.

The other major piece of advice I’ve come across is that you really ought to consider getting a lawyer. My friend is considering that right now. Insurance is complicated, so even if you understand the policy as well as you can, you may need a lawyer to help you with the legal complexities behind your claim. One of the lawyers I saw in my research, Smith Kendall Attorneys & Counselors, point out that it can be too much to ask of yourself to take on insurance companies after already going through a traumatic situation. A good lawyer will have daily experience in dealing with these situations and won’t be struggling with trauma and stress from losing their apartment.

Besides, having a lawyer on your side surely tells the insurance company you mean business. That may speed up the process on its own.

It’s a shame these things happen at all. Insurance should pay what the situation calls for it. But if you’ve got to fight, you should do so on the best possible terms. So, get acquainted with your policy now, and get a lawyer if your insurance company won’t budge. That’s what I’m going to tell my friend, anyway.