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Fire Damage Insurance Claim Los Angeles
Watching your home burn is a traumatic experience. It’s like watching a part of your life go up in flames. Unfortunately, filing and managing a fire damage insurance claim is often not a pleasant experience either.
Statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration shows that each year fire departments respond to an estimated 368,500 residential fires across the United States. On average, these fires result in 2,770 deaths, 11,650 injuries, and $8.1 billion in property losses. In 50% of residential building fires, the fire spreads beyond the room of origin.
If you’ve suffered fire damage to your home and are feeling overwhelmed trying to manage your homeowners insurance claim, you’re at the right place.
Note: Not all homeowners insurance policies provide the same coverage. Always check your policy to see what you’re covered for and if there are specific requirements and limits. If you’re unsure about anything, talk to your insurance provider or contact a licensed public adjuster for assistance.
Will Homeowners Insurance Cover My Fire Damage Claim?
Most homeowners insurance policies will typically cover fire damage claims.
Fire damage claims are notoriously difficult to manage depending on the severity of the fire and the complexities of the claim. For example, actual fire damage is often only one component of a larger claim that might include smoke damage and water damage. And it doesn’t stop there.
Smoke can dissipate quickly but it’s very invasive. Even if there are no visible signs left of it in your house, there could still be toxic smoke particles present.
According to Honeywell, a typical house fire produces hundreds of chemicals depending on the temperature, materials burnt, and availability of oxygen.
It’s not considered safe to live in a house with smoke and fire damage.
This adds another component to your homeowners insurance claim, namely Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage. It pays for additional expenses you have to incur such as renting a hotel room if you can’t stay in your house.
Note for California homeowners: You have no less than 24 months to collect ALE in the event of a declared catastrophe for wildfires even if your policy says otherwise. However, your amount of coverage is not increased.
High-pressure water hoses used by firefighters to extinguish a fire might cause water damage to areas that suffered no apparent fire damage.
The extreme heat generated by a fire might cause structural damage to your home. Even room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level.
Asbestos and Lead
Millions of homes contain asbestos and lead-based paint. When left undisturbed and if it’s not deteriorating, lead-based paint and asbestos-containing products are typically not hazardous.
In the event of a fire, microscopic asbestos fibers and minute particles of lead may be released into the air. This might pose a potentially serious health hazard.
Note: Most insurance companies don’t offer “pollution coverage” which includes the removal or abatement of asbestos and lead. However, they might make an exception if it’s required as part of the repairs to your home.
When Do I Need to File a Fire Damage Insurance Claim?
Most insurance companies require prompt notice. So notify your insurer or agent right away if your home has suffered fire damage.
You’ll be required to provide them with details of the incident, including the date it occurred and the condition of your home. If you are unavailable to live in your home, ask them if they can give you an advance payment for Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage.
A fire damage claim typically requires a lot of input from your side that you might not be able to provide right away. Ask your insurer to walk you through the process so you can submit the correct documentation timeously and in order of priority.
Don't Throw Anything Away Just Yet!
It’s important not to throw anything away before you’ve spoken with your insurance company’s appointed insurance adjuster. Even if your belongings are unsalvageable, presenting them to the insurance adjuster may help to support your claim. Disposing of items prematurely might give the insurance adjuster grounds to deny certain aspects of your claim.
Do You Own a Condo or Apartment That Has Suffered Fire Damage?
In the case of a condo, fire damage is typically covered by a condo insurance policy. But it can get quite complicated. A fire can start in your own unit but it can also start in a neighboring unit or common area.
There are usually two types of policies involved, namely your own condo insurance policy and your condo association’s master insurance policy. The question is whose insurance pays for the fire damage? This isn’t an easy question to answer.
It depends on the origin of the fire and what the impact was on your unit and other units in the complex. You (or your insurer) and the association (or its insurer) may both be responsible to pay for damages.
In the case of an apartment fire, damage is typically covered by apartment building insurance policies. If you’re a landlord, make sure you have “loss of rent” coverage. It will usually last for the duration of repairs or up to one year, whichever comes first.
Why Should You Hire a Public Adjuster for Your Fire Damage Claim?
Fire damage claims can be very complex and can take a long time to finalize. Understanding the fine print in your insurance policy, negotiating with an insurance adjuster, and dealing with contractors can be hard and time-consuming!
In addition, you might require specialist service providers such as:
- A professional fire restoration company to clean and decontaminate your home.
- An accredited asbestos abatement contractor.
- A certified industrial hygienist to test the air quality to make sure you’re living in a safe environment, free of toxic particles.
You have the right to see your property returned to a uniform and consistent appearance. This can be difficult to achieve after a partial loss. For example, imagine that part of your flooring is damaged and the original flooring is no longer available.
Your insurance adjuster may feel that the damaged portion of the flooring should be replaced with a close match. For many homeowners, this won’t be a satisfactory solution. It can lead to delays and lengthy negotiations. A public adjuster might be able to convince your insurance adjuster to replace the entire floor with the same floor covering.
A big challenge after a fire damage event is hidden damage that isn’t immediately obvious or visible. It might include damage from smoke, ash, or water that was used to stop the fire. An experienced public adjuster can help identify possible sources of hidden damage so they can be repaired quickly.
A public adjuster can work with your insurance adjuster to obtain a thorough and complete inspection of your property. This inspection should also include an evaluation of:
- Structural integrity
- Heating and ventilation systems
- Interior walls
- Air quality
- Electrical system
What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Public Adjuster for Fire Damage Claims?
Evens the Playing Field
A licensed public adjuster knows how to manage your homeowners insurance claim on your behalf. They know the rules, understand your insurance policy, and act in your best interests.
Saves You Time
Finalizing a fire damage claim can be a long and complicated process. Hiring a public adjuster might save you a lot of time!
Negotiates on Your Behalf
Negotiating with an insurance adjuster can be difficult and frustrating. They act in the best interests of the insurance company and will always try to save your insurer money.
A good public adjuster can help to ensure that you don’t get a bad settlement offer.
Works on a Contingency Basis
Public adjusters work on a contingency basis. This means their fees are solely based on a percentage of the settlement amount. It’s in their best interests to work hard to get you the best possible settlement in the shortest amount of time.
Faster Submission of Information
If you’ve suffered fire damage to your home, you want your insurance claim and repairs to be finalized as soon as possible. Public adjusters handle insurance claims for a living. They know how to quickly organize and submit the correct documentation and manage the process.
They don’t have to second guess what to do or what to do next. They are usually able to resolve your claim faster than you can do on your own.
Whether you’ve received a bad settlement offer or don’t have the time and experience to deal with an insurance adjuster and contractors, a public adjuster can help.
Avner Gat, Inc. has 15+ 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 and let’s discuss how we can assist you.