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How Smoke Damage Impacts Your Fire Damage Insurance Claim

For many homeowners, smoke damage is a secondary concern after a fire. You may have lost irreplaceable possessions, and you may even be forced to seek temporary shelter during repairs. While the physical impact of the blaze is often easy to see, smoke damage can be much more challenging to identify.

In this article, we are going to explain how insurance adjusters will identify smoke damage and review how smoke damage may impact your fire damage insurance claim.

Identifying Smoke Damage

Most people have heard the saying: “where there’s smoke – there’s fire.” Well, when it comes to residential fires, the opposite principle also holds true!

To identify smoke damage, we must first understand how smoke is generated. Smoke is composed of toxic gases and the particles of burned materials. Studies have shown that a typical residential fire may contain tens of thousands of poisonous chemicals. (In fact, exposure to toxic smoke may be a greater health risk than toxic mold, asbestos, or lead-based paint dust exposure!)

Smoke will have a unique composition based on the objects involved in the fire. For example, if you are dealing with a kitchen fire, the smoke could contain harmful chemicals that you may not find in a bedroom fire. This is because many people keep powerful cleaning chemicals such as bleach and drain cleaner in the kitchen. When those are burned, toxic gases may be released into the smoke.

When you file an insurance claim after a house fire, the process generally begins with an inspection. Smoke damage is not always visible to the naked eye. Some signs of smoke damage can only be identified by qualified experts throughout the inspection, testing, cleaning, and restoration process.  You may also work with an air quality expert that will test for harmful gases and particles lingering in the air.

Significant smoke and fire damage make it extremely important for homeowners to request a second opinion. You have a right to see your property returned to pre-loss condition, but you may disagree with the insurance company about which items can be cleaned and which must be replaced. In these situations, you may find it helpful to work with a public adjuster.

At Avner Gat Inc., we will advocate for you from the minute that you file your claim. We can handle meetings with repair specialists and the insurance company – working to guarantee that qualified experts perform your evaluations. By taking an active role in the damage identification process, we can avoid disputes with the insurance company when it is time for repairs.

Repairing Smoke Damage

The first step to repairing smoke damage is collecting a preliminary air sample. Air quality tests are critical because some chemicals typically used in the cleaning and remediation process can interact negatively with smoke and smoke byproducts. Testing will help your restoration professional determine which tools and chemicals are suitable for the job. Unfortunately, the cost of proper air quality testing can be steep. You may receive a bill between $2,000-$4,000 for the collection of samples, lab work, and a written report.

After the initial testing is complete, you will need to submit the test results to your insurance provider. Based on the air quality analysis results, you may want to contact a certified industrial hygienist (CIH). Insurance providers do not always suggest this, but these specialists can influence the value of your claim by testing for any evidence of smoke, soot, charring, and other fire contaminants.

Proper cleaning involves more than deodorizing furniture and masking the scent of smoke. In order to restore your home’s air quality, you’ll need to fully remove particulates of the fire.  If necessary, smoke remediation teams will set up containment units and run negative air filtration vacuums. These high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuums are incredibly effective in clearing particles and deodorizing the home.

Insurance Coverages for Smoke Damage

While every insurance policy is different, typical coverage should include all interior and exterior damage resulting from flames, smoke, soot, ash, and other byproducts of the fire. You will want to confirm the exact policy wording of your contract.

When you consult your policy, look for the different coverage components. You will likely want to review structural coverage, content coverage, and living expenses reimbursement. Content coverage limits will determine the maximum funding available to replace things like electronics, appliances, furniture, and clothing. Structural damage covers the structure of your home, including walls, studs, flooring, and roofing.

In most cases, insurance policyholders do not have much experience negotiating with their insurance companies. Corporate adjusters may ask leading questions and misinterpret your words and actions to suit their needs. This practice enables them to minimize your loss. You will want to beware of low settlement amounts that will only cover the cost of surface cleaning. Surface cleaning would remove visible smoke and ash, but it may not be adequate to return your home to pre-loss condition. If you find yourself in this situation, a public adjuster can step in to fight for you!

Final Thoughts

We hope that this article has helped you understand how smoke damage will impact your fire damage insurance claim! If you have recently suffered a loss, do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your situation. Our main objective is to get you paid every dollar you are owed under your policy.

However, this doesn’t mean that public adjusters are unsympathetic to small claims! At Avner Gat, we put our clients first. In some cases, this means declining to represent you if we feel that our fee will jeopardize your ability to pay for repairs. Regardless of the size of your claim, we would be happy to speak with you about your case and provide you with guidance, if possible.

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