What they, and you, may not know is that virtually all such claims also will end up in vast, privately run databases that are routinely accessed by the insurance industry to determine what rates they'll charge -- or if they'll cover you at all.
Moreover, the databases don't just reflect all claims filed by individual policyholders. They also reflect claims filed for specific addresses.
This means a new homeowner potentially could inherit higher rates simply because he or she bought a house where someone else submitted claims in the past.
"It's patently unfair," said Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a San Francisco-based advocacy group. "It's like buying a haunted house."
The databases would appear to be particularly all-encompassing in a state like California, where claims -- past and present -- can involve just about every hazard imaginable, from brush fires to earthquakes.
Although the databases may help insurers make educated decisions about risks posed by potential customers, they also can be abused by insurance firms seeking any rationale for charging higher rates, Bach said.
"Why should supposedly competing companies get to access your history?" she asked. "Insurance requires a certain amount of risk on the part of insurance companies. That's just the way it is."
The databases don't just affect homeowners. They also contain data for vehicle-insurance claims.
The primary such database is called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE. It's maintained by Georgia's ChoicePoint, the data broker that came to prominence in 2005 when scammers gained access to files on about 163,000 U.S. consumers.
Until the ChoicePoint debacle, many people weren't even aware that private companies compile and sell their personal information. Major clients for data brokers include government agencies, employers and financial institutions.
While ChoicePoint's CLUE dominates the insurance landscape -- to the extent that claims reports are often referred to as CLUE reports -- a similar database, the Automobile-Property Loss Underwriting Service, or A-PLUS, is maintained by a New Jersey company called ISO.
Jason Kimbrough, a spokesman for the California Department of Insurance, said state authorities were aware that such databases could be abused by insurance firms, increasing the chances that consumers "use it and lose it" when it comes to property coverage.
"CLUE certainly has use-it-and-lose-it overtones," he said.
Krissi Rouquie, ChoicePoint's assistant vice president of product development for CLUE, said the company believed its database wasn't being abused by insurers. But she said ChoicePoint can't know for sure.
"It's the carrier's responsibility to review claims and set rates," Rouquie said.
She said nearly all insurers contribute customer data to CLUE and that the system currently has about 40 million claims on file. This is done without the authorization of people making claims.
"These claims are the property of the carriers," Rouquie said. "They can contribute these claims to us."