Fire is not the only hazard that homeowners and business owners need to be concerned about. Smoke, too, can damage your property. Thankfully, most homeowners insurance policies cover this peril. Although to be sure, it would be wise to ask your insurance company this question outright when purchasing the policy. Today, we shall concentrate our efforts on learning how to file smoke damage insurance claims successfully.
Identifying Smoke Damage
First of all, you need to be able to discern between damage caused by fire and that caused by smoke. Unlike fire damage which leaves everything charred, smoke damage doesn’t need to be visible to the naked eye. Yet, it can still have devastating effects. Some easiest signs of smoke damage are:
1. A smoky smell emanating from clothes, upholstery, furniture, etc., even hours after the fire is put out.
2. Discoloration of the paint on countertops. It becomes yellowish.
3. Soot or ash deposits on the walls, floor, furnishings, etc.
Cleaning out the smoke and ash together with replacing or repainting the countertops along with the walls will cost dearly. The good news is that if your insurance policy covers smoke damage, you don’t have to worry about this extra expenditure.
Successfully Filing Your Smoke Damage Insurance Claims
When there is smoke damage to your property, you need to work in sync with your insurance company. Other than keeping that significant bit in mind, here’s how you should proceed:
1. Call Your Insurance Company – No, we don’t mean that instead of running out when there’s a fire or smoke-filled inside your house, you should run for your mobile or landline to talk to the insurance agent. Save yourself first, and take steps to minimize the damage. Once you have done that, it’s time to call the insurance company directly or the agent or representative thereof and verbally inform them of the damage incurred by your property. Do keep in mind a delay in informing the insurer may lead to delays and complications in the final claim settlement.
2. Take Photos And Videos Of Damage – There is no need to drag the damaged stuff outside to take its pic or make a video. The important thing is to let each thing be where it was when the damage occurred and document the loss in the form of short videos and pics. Do not move anything. It could make matters worse and also destroy critical evidence. When filing the claim, these pics and videos are to be attached as proof of loss.
3. Document Everything – Documenting the loss does not mean taking pictures of the physical damage. It entails much more than that. You need to record:
1. The date of loss.
2. The type of damage, i.e., water, fire, smoke, or all three.
3. The location where the damage occurred. You may have more than one property, so it is best to be specific.
4. Property owner’s complete contact information.
5. If you are not the property owner, then your complete contact details as well.
6. A copy of the police report.
7. A written list of all the damaged items, including the physical structure of the building.
The list above is not exhaustive. It is only indicative, and you may need to supplement it with other information as well. While documenting the loss, it is best to speak to the insurance company and know beforehand all the data you need to collect. This way, it will be highly unlikely that any important detail is missed or overlooked.
4. Review Your Homeowners Insurance Policy – Ideally, you should be well-versed with the contents of your homeowner’s insurance policy well before the damage occurs. Nevertheless, it’s never too late to know about it. At the time of filing the claim, you should understand the policy completely. This knowledge will clearly tell you what is covered, whether there is a deductible, its limitations and exclusions, and whether there are any deadlines while filing the claim. If you are not clear about the coverage, you can contact the insurance company for clarification. The other option is to hire an independent insurance contractor like a public claims adjuster who can also help you gain a better insight.
5. For Assessment And Estimates Call A Professional Smoke Damage Removal Firm – There are cleaning services that excel in removing the signs of smoke damage, and then there are the self-proclaimed cleaners. Remember, the insurance company will only pay heed to the professionals since they are trained to tackle such work. Therefore, it is best to start with them at the very beginning. When you file a smoke damage insurance claim, you will also have to submit a copy of repair estimates. Hiring a professional smoke damage removal company will increase your chances of getting the best possible payout.
6. When In Any Doubt Engage A Public Claims Adjuster – If you have any doubts about successfully filing the smoke damage insurance claim or finishing the formalities well in time, it is better to engage the services of a reputed public claims adjuster. The public adjuster works for you and not the insurance company. He or she understands your policy to the minutest details. They know all the paperwork and formalities that need to be completed. In addition, they also do all the leg work for gathering quotes and estimates, setting up appointments, and attending the meetings. With them batting for you, you have nothing to worry about. The hard part is all handled by them.
Working with the insurance company while filing the smoke damage insurance claim will hasten the claim settlement process. Ask them about all the forms you need to fill and the documents to be attached and proceed as they recommend.
Claim filing is a tedious process, one which is also frustrating and sometimes lengthy. If you don’t wish to burden yourself with the additional running around, look no further than Continental Public Adjusters. We are a company with an excellent track record in settling numerous commercial and residential property claims throughout the state of Florida. You can reach out to us at (800) 989-4769.