Insurance companies have been known to cut corners during the fire insurance claim process. Since these types of claims are inherently complex most home owners and business owners- to their own detriments- blindly follow the lead of the insurance company’s claim adjuster. If your property has sustained smoke and fire damage then you must be proactive if you want a fast and accurate fire settlement. Here are the top tips for filing fire insurance claims complied from our public adjusters.
It’s imperative you remain in control of your personal property until there is a proactive plan in place for your entire fire insurance claim. Relinquishing your personal property to a restoration company without first knowing all of your rights and options WILL waste thousands of your settlement dollars. Insurance proceeds spent on cleaning smoke and fire damaged property are deducted from the total claim, even if the attempts are unsatisfactory. The decision is YOURS if you wish to replace or restore items that were damaged. Even if you’re handling the fire claim without professional help, at least consult with a trusted and experienced public adjuster before allowing any company to start cleaning or restoring your property.
Claims for fire and smoke damage are complex and the claim process can be longer than most other claim types. That being said, nothing will happen overnight. More importantly, nothing good will happen if you rush into a major decision like hiring a general contractor or restoration company. Stop.
Contact two or three general contractors or restoration companies to bid out the cost to restore and/or repair your property’s structure to its pre-loss condition. DO NOT sign any work order contract. Use the estimates you get to gauge the true cost to repair your home and what your insurance company offers you. Keep in mind that claim professionals such as public adjusters and insurance appraisers are able to utilize your policy to maximize settlement dollars. In the event of a total loss fire claim, many claimants are entitled to 35% above policy limits. An experienced and trusted public adjuster can prepare the documentation and negotiate those extra terms.
If you have been left without living essentials like clothes, toiletries or food then you could be entitled to an advance against your fire insurance claim settlement. If you’ve filed the claim then contact the assigned adjuster to request this advance ASAP. As a best practice, also put the request in writing and also submit it to the insurance company.
Most insurance companies will grant this request and the advanced amount will be deducted from the final claim settlement. Contact a public adjuster if your insurance company hassles you about granting an advance.
To ensure you are compensated for every item that was damaged by smoke and fire, start compiling your own personal property inventory. While this sounds like a large undertaking, it is essential since this portion of fire insurance claims usually make or break final settlement amounts. Go room by room and write down every item, age, description and approximate price. Don’t overwhelm yourself if you can’t remember the details as you can go back at a later date to fill in missing information.
A Proof of Loss form is a legal document used commonly in the fire insurance claim process. It’s a formal declaration made by the claimant regarding the amount of smoke and fire damage sustained to a property. Most insurance companies require the submission of the Proof of Loss prior to tendering any payment. Mistakes on the Proof of Loss form can jeopardize your claim, cause delays and even a denied fire claim. For directions on how to submit a Proof of Loss click here
While all claimants can benefit from a public adjuster’s help during the fire insurance claim process, you absolutely need to consult with a trusted and experienced claim adjuster if you’ve received a:
Keep track of all communications between you, vendors and the insurance company. Track and log of every email and phone call. Request that the adjuster from the insurance company re-cap phone conversations in follow-up emails. Keep all receipts for money spent due to the fire loss. And most importantly, keep copies of all documents submitted to and received from the insurance company.
Don’t make the mistake of discontinuing payment of your insurance premium. The typical homeowner insurance policy and business policy includes liability coverage. This coverage will offer protection against accidents or other types of damages that could occur at the loss site on a different date of loss.
An insurance company cannot cancel or “drop” a claimant for any reason other than fraud or material misrepresentation. That means you cannot lose coverage for filing a fire insurance claim or for hiring a public adjuster to assist you. Fire claims carry heavy workloads for insurance company adjusters, even more so if the claimant hires a public adjuster for assistance. Be wary if the claim adjuster from your insurance company threatens your claim, discourages you from seeking help from a public adjuster or pressures you into signing off on a settlement. Report any unethical behavior to a superior or to your state’s Department of Insurance.
If you’re navigating the complexities of the fire insurance claim process then staying clam, being proactive and getting organized will go a long way in securing a favorable and efficient settlement. For basic information and tips for filing a fire insurance claim visit this article written by ABC News.
Call us 24/7 for any questions you have about the fire insurance claim process. We have insurance appraisers and public adjusters in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and 15 other states across the US.