10 Things You Should Do When Handling a Fire Damage Claim
Watching your house burn is one of the worst nightmares a homeowner can imagine. Sadly, many homeowners wake up every morning realizing it wasn’t just a dream.
Statistics show that, on average, in the United States, a home structure fire is reported every 89 seconds, a home fire death occurs every three hours and 24 minutes, and a home fire injury occurs every 46 minutes.
Avner Gat, Inc. has spent the past 17+ years helping homeowners just like you with their fire damage insurance claims, and we’ve put together the following 10 fire damage claims tips to help you.
#1. Contact the Fire Authorities
Whether you’re dealing with a small kitchen fire or a more devastating fire, you should almost always contact your local fire authorities. Take care to heed their advice, and do not enter your home until it has been deemed safe.
Your insurance company requires you to take reasonable care of your property in the event of damage, and calling in the authorities will prove that you did not sit idly by while the fire was happening.
A common mistake made by many homeowners is that they call the fire department too late, thinking they have the fire under control. And fires are often known to reignite, even hours after being extinguished. Should this occur, it might compromise your fire damage claim.
#2. Mitigate the Damage to the Best of Your Ability
If it’s safe to do so, secure your property and do everything you can to mitigate further damage. You have an obligation to your insurance company to prevent unnecessary damage without putting your safety at risk.
For example, if possible, cover holes in your roof, snuff out burning embers, board up your windows and doors to keep vandals out, and relocate your undamaged belongings.
#3. Call Your Insurance Company as Soon as Possible
Call your insurer as soon as you’re able to do so. Ask them what you can and should do and get it in writing. It includes getting their approval to hire a contractor to prevent further damage to your home.
#4. Prepare a Home Inventory and Don’t Throw Anything Away
If you don’t have a home inventory list, you should prepare one as soon as you’re able to do so. List all items that were damaged or destroyed in the fire and their replacement cost or actual cash value, depending on what you’re insured for.
Don’t make the mistake of throwing away anything. It’s easier to prove damage to an item if you keep it for the insurance adjuster to inspect.
#5. Keep Track of Your Additional Living Expenses
A homeowners insurance policy usually has a clause called “loss of use.” It covers you for additional living expenses (ALE) should your home be uninhabitable or not safe to live in after the fire.
Refer to your policy or talk to your insurer about what additional living expenses you may claim. For example, are there limits on certain items, such as ordering food in a restaurant or the cost per night for a hotel room?
Keep careful track of all your additional living expenses so you can claim reimbursement.
#6. Get quotes from several contractors
You typically have a choice between picking a contractor that’s recommended by your insurance company or hiring your own contractor. Dealing with contractors can be frustrating!
Don’t just pick the cheapest one – some contractors are known to underquote to get a job and then come up with excuses why it’s going to cost more once they’ve been appointed.
Here are six questions you need you ask an insurance claim contractor:
#1. A Detailed, Written Estimate.
#2. How Long Will It Take Them to Complete the Job?
#3. Their Contractor’s License Number and Insurance Details.
#4. Do They Guarantee Their Workmanship?
#5. What Experience Do They Have on Similar Jobs?
#6. Will They Do All the Work Themselves?
For more information, read our article on how to hire an insurance claim contractor.
#7. Never Rush Into a Settlement
Don’t allow an insurance adjuster to pressure you into accepting a lowball settlement offer that’s insufficient to cover damages. You don’t have to accept the first settlement offer you receive. You can and should negotiate with them if their offer isn’t fair or reasonable.
#8. Keep Paying Your Insurance Premiums
It might not make sense to continue paying your homeowners insurance premiums if your house has been badly damaged or destroyed in a fire. However, stopping your payments without first discussing it with your insurer can be a huge mistake.
If your home has been totally destroyed, ask your insurer to reduce your premiums, but don’t stop paying your premiums without first discussing it with them.
#9. Let Your Insurance Provider Know if You’ve Moved
Always notify your insurer of your temporary address if you can’t stay in your house due to smoke and fire damage. If you have to move to a temporary address, your belongings may sustain additional damage. If you fail to notify your insurer, they might deny additional claims based on your failure to notify them.
#10. Consider hiring a public adjuster
When you file an insurance claim for fire damage, your insurance company will appoint an insurance adjuster to handle your claim. This adjuster is paid by your insurer and is expected to mitigate their liability.
An insurance adjuster acts in the best interests of your insurance company. They won’t do you any favors at the expense of your insurer.
A public adjuster acts in your best interests, not the best interests of your insurance company.
That’s a Wrap
We trust the tips we shared will help you to better handle your fire damage claim.
Large or complex claims, such as when your house is uninhabitable or unsafe to live in, can be hard to manage. In such cases, hiring a public adjuster to act in your best interests can be a smart move.
An experienced and licensed public adjuster can help you overcome the challenges of managing your homeowners insurance claim. And they can assist you in getting the best possible settlement offer you’re entitled to under your insurance policy.
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 Avner now at (818) 917-5256 to find out how we can assist you.