Most people think they’re joking when they leave and say, “well, I hope the house doesn’t burn down while we’re gone,” but that is the unfortunate reality for some people out there. Regardless of whether a helpful neighbor noticed the signs of a fire and it was controlled with damage to only a few rooms, or if the whole structure was destroyed, you now have to file a fire insurance claim with your insurance company.
Making a claim can be a confusing and difficult process because most homeowners don’t have experience filing claims, particularly with fire damage. It’s an event that rarely happens. But when it does, you need all the knowledge you can get. Below are some tips and advice for dealing with fire insurance claims.
1. What to Do Immediately After the Incident
Immediately after the incident, you have to secure the site. Put out the fire if you can, call the first responders for your area, and verify the safety of all family members and pets who may have been in the structure.
Then, be sure to contact your insurance company’s 24/7 service to report the claim. Also, you should accept emergency funds to cover lodging, meals, and temporary expenses.
2. Preparing for Your Fire Damage Insurance Claims Process
Take photos and videos of the damage. Not just one or two, but multiple angles so that you can show the full extent of the areas that will require repair or replacement. This includes any areas that were damaged by the smoke and soot put off by the combustion, as well as any damage from the efforts that extinguished the fire.
Your stove may have caught fire, but the smoke and soot damage in your living room mean the drywall would have to be replaced, and there may be water damage to your carpet. All of these factors should be considered in the value of your claim, and you need to make sure that they are not brushed aside.
Review your policy carefully to make sure of what it covers. Does it cover the actual cash value of your items or does it cover the replacement value? Cash value takes depreciation into account, while replacement value means you have to purchase items that will take the place of your lost possessions and then get reimbursed for them.
3. Dealing with the Insurance Adjuster
One of the key things to remember as you begin the process of filing your fire damage insurance claim, is that an adjuster from your insurance company will be sent to assess the damage. This individual is on your insurance company’s payroll and will be working for them. That means they will try and get the lowest payout possible for the damage that occurred to your home or business.
Get a second opinion. You shop around for the best deal on a car, so why wouldn’t you ask for another estimate on the value of your fire insurance claim? They may discover secondary damage, such as smoke and soot damage that has spread into other rooms from the initial site of the fire, or there may be traces in your HVAC system that will later spread to other areas. As previously mentioned, the insurance adjuster has their company’s best interest in mind, and may overlook these areas.
4. Be Ready In Case Something Catastrophic Happens
One of the best things you can do to prepare for your fire insurance claim is something you can do now, before the catastrophe strikes. Keep a record of the possessions in your home and do regular video walkthroughs to prove the existence of items in your home.
5. Total Loss Fire Claims
Make sure that you are carrying enough insurance, and that your home has been adequately appraised. If you have $400,000 of insurance and your home is only valued at $325,000, you will only be paid $325,000 in the event of a total loss. If you have upgrades like granite countertops, you will need to know that in order to argue that your house is worth more than the insurance company wants to pay. Document your renovations, and ensure that your video walkthrough shows these upgraded amenities.
6. How a Public Adjuster Can Help
Consider hiring a public adjuster. These are agents who work on behalf of the policyholder to get the most from their insurance coverage. They have experience filing the paperwork necessary to handle the fire insurance claim, and they are usually former agents of insurance companies, so they know the tricks they are fighting against.
Most importantly, you don’t have to pay upfront for the assistance of a public adjuster in your case. They are paid as a portion of the settlement from your claim, from 5-25% depending on how extensive the claim was, and how much experience they have.
Continental Public Adjusters is proud to serve the entire state of Florida in handling property claims, and they have the experience to help you get the most out of your policy.
If you have a new property claim, or even worse if your claim is denied, delayed, or underpaid, you need an experienced public adjuster.
Continental Public Adjusters will do five key things for you:
1. Advocate: Our sole responsibility is to make sure you receive the maximum recovery for your loss.
2. Review: A comprehensive investigation helps us understand each specific type of loss. With our experts and consultants, we begin to determine the overall value of your property loss.
3. Estimate: Using the latest cost estimating software to prepare supporting documentation and provide it to your carrier.
4. Adjust: We will adjust your claim and negotiate with your insurance company adjuster to reach a settlement meeting your approval, in your best interest.
5. Maximize: We can foresee issues and obstacles in the claims process with the experience that comes from settling thousands of claims, and will work to reach your maximum benefit.
Start with a free consultation with one of our team members to learn about your options. Continental Public Adjusters, Inc. has 38 years of experience successfully settling thousands of claims related to both personal and commercial property in the state of Florida.