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The Fire Damage Insurance Claim Process & How to Know if You're Covered
Fire damage insurance claims can leave you feeling lost, stressed, and unsure how to proceed with your insurance company. You are probably thinking, “Am I covered for fire damage? And if so, what is my next step?” Insurance policies can be nuanced and complicated so you may be feeling insecure about how you will restore your home or business and who will pay for it.
In this article, we are going to explain the different stages of filing a fire damage insurance claim and some strategies to help you determine whether your particular incident will be covered by your insurance policy. Following these fire insurance claim tips will help you manage the aftermath and make sure you are doing everything in your power to remedy the situation as quickly and effectively as possible.
1. Alert local authorities & secure the property
Whether you are dealing with a small fire or a massive blaze, you should almost always contact your local fire authorities immediately. As soon as the fire gets out of your control, evacuate the premises and do not enter your home unless it has been declared safe by an official.
Once you have permission to enter again, try to mitigate the damage as best you can. In more severe cases, the authorities may suggest that you call in a professional restoration company to assist with securing your property.
During the claims investigation, your insurance provider might ask for proof that you took “reasonable care” of the property immediately after the fire. “Reasonable care” could refer to anything from covering holes in your roof and snuffing out burning embers to boarding up your walls to prevent pests from entering.
At this stage, do not throw away anything. Even if your belongings are unsalvageable, presenting them to the insurance company’s adjuster helps bolster your claim. The value of some of your items may even be reimbursed as part of your policy. The only things you should remove from your home at this point, aside from family members and pets, are important medications as well as documents such as birth certificates, insurance policies, credit cards, etc.
2. Evaluate the cause of the damage
Once you have safely evacuated the premises and secured your property, it is time to determine whether your fire damage claim is likely to be covered. Usually, the best way to know whether or not you are covered is to identify the cause of the fire.
Common causes include electrical fires, faulty cooking equipment, candles, faulty wiring, and wildfires. In cases where the source can not be easily identified, a fire investigation may be undertaken and a report could be produced. In such cases, make sure to maintain any information or documentation that you receive from the authorities.
While most of these situations are covered, fire insurance claim coverage varies on a policy to policy basis. The wording of your policy will dictate your specific entitlements. If the source of the fire is indeed covered by your individual policy, it would certainly benefit you to file a fire damage insurance claim.
3. Consider whether you need a public adjuster
Public adjusters are independent adjusters hired by individuals to represent them in their dealings with their insurance company. Typically, public adjusters handle cases of significant property damage and negotiate on their clients’ behalf to make sure they are paid what they are owed.
Some cases are straightforward, making the claims process quick and simple, while others can be more complex and tedious. Not every homeowner’s insurance claim requires a public adjuster’s aid, but if you think you might face challenges in the claims process, do not hesitate to contact us.
Still not sure if a public adjuster is right for your fire claim? Check out our article on the pros and cons of working with a public adjuster!
4. File an insurance claim
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the damage occurs. While all insurance policies are different, most providers require prompt notice, and significant delays could constitute a breach of contract. We suggest getting in touch with your provider as soon as possible so as not to disqualify yourself from being able to submit a claim.
5. Track living expenses
If you need to relocate during the home restoration process, track all your expenses as strictly as possible. Homeowner’s insurance coverage might have a “loss of use” clause, which could entitle you to reimbursement for living expenses while you are out of your home.
Your policy should also cover additional living expenses – which are any new costs that you have had to assume since your property sustained the damage. For example, you could claim extra mileage as an additional living expense if your commute has increased substantially.
You can never be too prepared. Keeping as thorough of a record of your spending as possible can only increase the potential return when your claim is finally processed.
6. Negotiate an insurance settlement
Insurance claims can remain open for months. As frustrating as it is, try not to let the insurance company rush through the settlement process. They may try to pressure you into settling for an amount that is insufficient to cover your damages simply because they know you want the process to be over.
If you choose to work with a public adjuster, they will manage the negotiations on your behalf, allowing you to focus on your physical and emotional recovery. Going back and forth with insurance companies can be an exhausting process, particularly for those without experience, and providers use this to their advantage.
Lastly, do not forget to keep paying your insurance premiums throughout the negotiation process! Continuing to pay for insurance on a house you aren’t currently living in is probably the furthest thing from your mind, but keeping your policy active is essential.
We hope that this article has helped you understand what to expect from the fire damage insurance claim process. If you have recently suffered a loss, do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your claim.
It can be difficult to determine your coverage limits if you’re unfamiliar with the insurance industry’s vocabulary. Our experts would be happy to review your individual situation and provide guidance throughout the claims process. As public adjusters, our primary objective is to get you paid every dollar you are owed under your current insurance policy.
Avner Gat, Inc. has 17+ years of experience as a public adjuster in Southern California. We protect homeowners from the games and fine print that insurance companies are known for.
Call us at (818) 917-5256 to find out how we can assist you.