Fire Insurance Claim
If you’ve been the victim of a fire, you know how devastating the damage can be. Then on top of the fire itself, you have to deal with your insurance company and the claims process. Just getting your life back on track after a fire is hard enough. If you are finding the claim process overwhelming, a public adjuster may be just what you need.
Types of Fire Damage
After a fire, the most obvious form of damage will be burn damage from anywhere the fire actually touched. Parts of the building or your personal property may be charred, blackened, or disintegrated.
A more insidious form of damage is smoke damage. Even if something in your home was spared from being burnt, it may well be covered in ash or soot and smell strongly of smoke. Any item damaged by smoke will require a thorough professional cleaning if it can be saved.
Finally, fire damage in most cases will also include water damage from putting the fire out, or from rain in any place that has been damaged to the extent that it has been exposed to the elements. Water damage to your home and personal property may end up being even worse than the damage from the fire itself.
How do fire insurance claims work?
A homeowners insurance claim for fire damage will work much like any other insurance claim. The first step in the process will be to contact your insurance company or agent to start your claim. The insurance company will assign an insurance adjuster to your case. This adjuster will inspect the damage to your property and submit an estimate to the company.
The amount of money you get from your claim is dependent on the kind of insurance coverage that you have. If you have “replacement cost” coverage, then you are entitled to the amount of money it will take to repair or replace your damaged or destroyed property and possessions. If you have “actual cash value” coverage, however, you will only be given the value of your property minus depreciation, which obviously will come out to substantially less than the cost of replacement with new items.
How can I get the most out of my fire damage claim?
The most important thing that you can do to maximize your claim amount is to properly document your losses. Obviously, to do this the most accurately will require you to document your personal property and possessions before any damage occurs, so consider completing this process before you need to, as it will make your life much easier in the event you need to file a homeowners insurance claim for any reason. If possible, make copies of receipts or any other documents showing what you paid for the items in your home.
Make sure you are home when your insurance adjuster visits to inspect your property, and be sure to show him or her all of the damage that your home has suffered. Keep documentation of all your contact with the insurance company, preferably in writing. Take notes about any visits the adjuster makes to your home, as well as any appointments that were missed, any phone calls that were made, and what was discussed in these conversations.
Make and keep copies of all documents relating to your claim and anything that you give to the adjuster. If the adjuster tells you that you can start repairs, make sure to get that information in writing for your records. It is not uncommon for an adjuster to be replaced by a new one at some point during the claims process, and information may not be properly transferred, so you want to make sure you have good records and documentation of anything that has been done regarding your claim.
If your home has custom work, it is a good idea to get a separate estimate from a contractor of what that work is worth, as the adjuster may not be familiar enough with the work to make an accurate estimate of its value.
Finally, verify what exactly your insurance covers, discuss any exclusions or limits in your policy with the adjuster, and ask for a written explanation of why any items aren’t included in the estimate and whether there are any coverage limits. You can ask for a written explanation of how the adjuster arrived at his or her estimate if you feel any mistakes or unfair exclusions have been made.
How do I settle a fire claim with my insurance company?
First, if you don’t have enough money available to you to pay for your immediate expenses after a fire, you can ask your insurance company for an advance on your claim. This can help if you need cash immediately for expenses like hotel rooms, meals, or clothing. Be aware, however, that any money you get in advance will be deducted from your final settlement amount later.
Next, you want to make an accurate estimate of your losses. Do not dispose of any burnt items, because you’ll need them as evidence for the damage you have suffered. Also do not make any type of repair until your insurance adjuster has properly inspected the damage to your home and property and given the go-ahead to get the repair process started. Make sure to keep evidence of any items that have been lost or fully destroyed.
If your home is uninhabitable, keep documentation of all the expenses you incur. Keep receipts, make copies, make a list of all damaged or destroyed items to the best of your ability. Take photos or videos if possible.
How long does a fire insurance claim take?
Most fire claims should be settled by insurance companies within 90-120 days.
What is covered under fire insurance?
Fire insurance as part of a standard homeowners or renter’s policy should cover not only fire damage and smoke damage, but also any damage as a result of firefighters’ efforts to extinguish the fire.
Standard policies cover the loss of use of your home and additional living expenses. These costs may include things like hotel bills, rent at a different residence while your home is uninhabitable, meals, transportation, and clothing. A typical homeowners insurance policy will also cover fire damage to trees and plants around your home, as well as costs for the removal of debris.
What does a fire claim adjuster do?
If your property has been damaged or destroyed by a fire, the subsequent insurance claim can be incredibly complex and the process hard to navigate. The easy thing to do is just to follow the lead of the claim adjuster from your insurance company, but doing this can lead to you receiving an undervalued settlement, delays, and limited options for restoring or rebuilding your property.
The role of a public adjuster is to serve as a second opinion advocating for the policyholder against your insurance company. If you think about it, it’s easy to understand why an insurance company, no matter how good it might be, is not going to serve your best interests as an insurance claimant. The insurance company is, after all, a business, and thus their primary goal is to make as much profit as possible. Needless to say, giving out lots of money to claimants does not help them towards achieving this goal. Therefore, any time you have to deal with insurance companies, you need to be aware that they will most likely try any number of tactics to undervalue or completely deny your claim, because doing this saves them money.
A public adjuster is a professional claims handler who is legally entitled to represent the interests of a policyholder during the claim process. Your fire claims adjuster will work hard to ensure that you recover as much money as possible through your claim, using their expertise, knowledge, and ability to interpret insurance policies, which can sometimes be vague and ambiguous. Using a public adjuster will almost always substantially increase the settlement value of your insurance claim.
In addition, a public adjuster can take the vast majority of the stress and minutiae of an insurance claim off of your plate as the policyholder. Your public adjuster is experienced and knowledgeable in the insurance claims process, and can be the middleman between you and your insurance company so you don’t have to deal with most of the process directly, but you can be assured that your adjuster will represent your interests and work to get you the best claim possible.