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How to Deal With an Insurance Adjuster After a House Fire
Coming to terms with a house fire is not easy. It’s not something any homeowner can prepare for or want to think about. And when it happens, it’s usually worse than you could imagine.
Having your ‘safe space’ damaged or destroyed is a traumatic experience. It might leave you feeling bewildered and unsure of how to proceed. Dealing with an insurance adjuster after a house fire is probably the last thing you feel like doing.
At Avner Gat, Inc., we have dealt with many house fire insurance claims in our 17+ years of experience as a public adjuster in Los Angeles.
Read on for our best tips and advice on how to deal with an insurance adjuster after a house fire.
When you file an insurance claim after a covered event, such as fire damage, your insurer appoints an insurance adjuster to adjust your claim. This adjuster works for your insurance company and acts in their best interests to mitigate their liability.
Some insurance adjusters are ‘independent’ and work on a contract basis for multiple insurers. However, insurers pay independent adjusters as their contracted representatives to investigate and adjust claims on their behalf.
Whether you’re dealing with a company or ‘staff’ adjuster or an independent adjuster, do not expect any favors from them. They are not going to leave money on the table.
Tips and Advice on How to Deal With an Insurance Adjuster
Here are the things you should do before, during, and after meeting with an insurance adjuster regarding your house fire insurance claim.
Things to Do Before Meeting the Insurance Adjuster
Notify your insurance company or insurance agent – As soon as you’re able, inform your insurer of the house fire. Most insurance companies expect to receive prompt notification of any events that might give rise to an insurance claim.
If your home is uninhabitable due to smoke and fire damage, talk to your insurance company about getting an advance for additional living expenses (ALE).
Record the damage – Without endangering your safety, take as many photos as possible or make a video of the damage. Go room to room and capture damage to the structure of your home and personal property. Get permission from the fire department before you proceed!
Hire a fire damage restoration company to make reasonable emergency repairs – Your insurer expects you to mitigate damage and secure your property. Fire restoration companies are typically available for emergencies 24/7. If they have to remove any personal property for safe storage, ensure you have photos or a video of the items beforehand.
Don’t clean up your home or throw away any damaged items before the insurance adjuster has had an opportunity to view it!
Read/review your homeowner’s insurance policy – Prepare for meeting the insurance adjuster by familiarizing yourself with your coverage. You can have a more constructive conversation with them if you know and understand your policy. And they might take you more seriously than if they think you are ignorant.
In addition to the above:
Start documenting losses – If you don’t have a home inventory list, start making one. List all personal property that was damaged or destroyed during the house fire. It should include a detailed description of the item, when and where you bought it, the purchase price, and the estimated replacement cost.
Don’t have a receipt or can’t remember where or when you bought an item? The photos you took or the video you made after the fire might be sufficient proof of ownership.
Start getting repair estimates – Insurance companies typically have preferred vendors. However, you are not obliged to use any vendor your insurer recommends. Get several repair estimates before hiring a contractor.
What to Say and Do During the First Meeting
Meet in person and explain what happened – Always try to be at your house when the insurance adjuster arrives. The last thing you want is for them to jump to conclusions or make assumptions without any input from you.
Be honest but don’t apologize for anything – Walking with an insurance adjuster through a house with fire damage can be emotional for any homeowner. It’s easy to unjustly blame yourself for the damage at the spur of the moment. But don’t say anything to the insurance adjuster that they might misinterpret.
Tell the insurance adjuster what you have done to mitigate damage – Explain to the insurance adjuster what steps you took to reduce and prevent additional damage.
Point out any hidden damage – You know what your house was like before the fire. If any damage isn’t visible after the fire, point it out to the insurance adjuster.
Be polite – You might not always agree with an insurance adjuster or even like them, but always treat them with respect.
Ask what your insurance company requires from you – Ask what additional information or documentation your insurance company needs to process your claim.
Ask what you should expect next – While you’re with the insurance adjuster, ask them what the following steps are in the claims process.
What to Do After Meeting the Insurance Adjuster
Confirm everything discussed during the meeting in writing – Send the insurance adjuster an email after the meeting to confirm everything you discussed, including the way forward.
Always document everything in writing – It’s likely that the insurance adjuster may require some additional information from you or have some questions. Always respond as soon as possible and in writing.
Review the settlement offer – If you do not think it is fair, ask the insurance adjuster to explain their reasoning. And let them know your reasons for not agreeing.
Negotiate – Don’t feel pressured into accepting the first settlement offer you receive. You can and should negotiate with the insurance adjuster if you think your insurance company is lowballing you.
That's a Wrap
We trust you find our tips on dealing with insurance adjusters before, during, and after meeting them helpful and informative.
However, we are the first to admit that managing a house fire insurance claim is not a walk in the park. Dealing with an insurance adjuster acting in the best interests of your insurer can be difficult. And we haven’t even touched on dealing with contractors.
Insurance claims for house fires are typically large and complex. It’s the reason we usually advise homeowners to contact a licensed public adjuster after a house fire.
A public adjuster can help you overcome the challenges of managing your claim and can assist you in getting the best possible settlement offer you’re entitled to.
Avner Gat, Inc. has 17+ years of experience as a public adjuster in Los Angeles, covering 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.