FAQ’s – Fire Insurance Claim Help

How long will my fire insurance claim take to settle?

Most fire claims, if handled correctly, should settle within 90-120 days from the date of loss. Claimants who are unfamiliar with the fire claim process are likely to make common mistakes which will likely result in delays and possible misappropriation of insurance funds.

My insurance company directed an affiliated restoration company to remove my personal property that was damaged by the house fire. They attempted to restore some of my belongings but many of my items still look and smell damaged. The restoration bill was outrageous. Am I on the hook to pay for the inadequate attempt to restore my belongings?

Unfortunately, yes. Many people who are unfamiliar with the claim process blindly allow the insurance company and its representatives to take control of their possessions. You have, or had, a right to elect which items you preferred to be replaced (receive settlement money to buy something of like kind or quality) or restored (cleaned by the restoration company). If you’ve made this mistake then consider consulting with a trusted and experienced public adjuster to find out if you have any recourse.

The insurance company has required me to submit all sorts of financial and personal information in order to process my fire claim. I don’t see how the information is relevant. Must I comply?

It depends, but most likely yes. Your compliance, to a reasonable extent, is required if you want to progress your claim forward. If you feel that the insurance company is purposely trying to make the fire claim process difficult, or deter you from a settlement, then consult with a trusted and experienced public adjuster ASAP.

My insurance company paid to have my home and personal property restored from smoke and fire damage; however, I still smell a smoke odor throughout my home. Do I have any recourse?

The smell of smoke and subsequent smoke damage is subjective. You’ll likely need an experienced fire claim adjuster or smoke damage expert to properly assess and document the remaining smoke damage in order for the insurance company to compensate you.

The insurance company has stopped all work on my fire damage claim while the cause of the fire is under investigation. What can I do?

If the cause and origin of the fire has not yet been established then the insurance company will take an investigative approach. Unfortunately this makes claimants feel more like suspects than victims of a heartbreaking loss. During the investigation the claim process will be at a standstill and no settlement will be tendered. If you received a Reservation of Rights letter then your claim is being investigated. While this can be alarming, you need to consult with a trusted and experienced fire damage adjuster – a public claim adjuster- immediately. In some cases a private claim adjuster can negotiate a partial advanced settlement while the fire claim is being investigated.

What is an Examination Under Oath?

An Examination Under Oath is a formal proceeding during which a claimant under oath, and within the presence of a court reporter, is questioned by the insurance company’s attorney. There are some serious issues with your fire claim if you’ve been required to participate in an EUO. Consult with an experienced fire claim adjuster immediately.

Am I required to participate in an Examination Under Oath for my fire damage claim?

100%. If you refuse or otherwise fail to appear for your Examination Under Oath then your insurance company can deny your claim.

A kitchen fire damaged a part of my home but smoke and soot damage are everywhere. What do I need to know about the fire claim process?

It sounds like you have a partial loss and as such, the claim will need to be handled with special attention and care. If you’re not hiring professional fire claim help from a public adjuster then make certain your insurance adjuster thoroughly investigates and documents the hidden and hard-to-find damage, smoke and soot damage, and damage to the “guts” of your home (interior walls and framing, air ducts etc). Have a strategic and proactive claim place in place before you allow the insurance carrier to restore your home or belongings. Failure to so will could result in thousands of wasted settlement dollars and time. If you feel like your claim isn’t getting the attention it deserves then contact an experienced and trusted fire damage claim adjuster.

The insurance company will only replace the flooring in my living room but not my family room. Is this fair?

Your insurance company has an obligation to pay to repair and restore your property to it’s pre-loss condition in a consistent and uniform fashion. If one of the rooms was damaged by smoke and fire then your insurance company is most likely obligated to pay to have the floors replaced in both rooms. Check your policy or consult with a private adjuster for more information about “line of sight” disputes.

Is my insurance agent or broker equipped to provide me claim help?

Insurance agents and brokers are proficient in defining fire insurance needs and selling you the best policy. These insurance professionals are not trained in estimating and documenting fire damage. Insurance adjusting and settlement negotiations are a specialized service that requires substantial training and experience to do well.

What are the possible downfalls of handling my own fire claim?

Lost time and money could be potential downfalls of handling your claim without professional help. Most people suffer an insured loss or maybe two in a lifetime and therefore lack the experience to navigate the inherent complexities of a fire claim. Inaccurately estimating the full scope to repair and restore their property and possessions will result in delays, a lower settlement and even a possible denial from the carrier. An experienced public claim adjuster knows how to navigate the fire claim process in ways that maximize the settlement and minimize the hassle from the insurance company.

What is a public adjuster?

A public adjuster is a professional claims handler and claim adjuster who advocates for the policyholder in appraising and negotiating a claimant’s fire insurance claim. These adjusters are issued licenses through respective state government agencies and their licenses only permit them to assist policyholders, not insurance companies.

Is there a difference between a “public adjuster” and a “fire claim adjuster?”

“Public adjuster” is a board term often used to describe claim adjusters who specialize in adjusting specific types of claims for the public. A fire claim adjuster likely specializes in documenting, adjusting and negotiating claims for fire and smoke damage. There is not a specific designation or license to become a “fire claim adjuster” so check references before hiring any type of professional claim help.

My insurance claim adjuster has discouraged me from hiring a public adjuster. Why?

Insurance companies and their employees- their adjuster- are often inclined to increase their bottom line by minimizing claim settlements. Public claim adjusters work hard to maximize settlements. When a claimant hires their own private adjuster the insurance company is forced to deal with a professional who may be just as or more knowledgeable than they are.

How much does a public adjuster charge to provide fire claim help?

Most public insurance adjuster agreements are contingency-based meaning the fee is a small percentage of the negotiated settlement. The percentage can range from 5% – 20% depending on the size, complexity and stage of the claim process the adjuster is hired. Reputable claim adjusters will never charge an upfront fee or extra costs.

If I hire and pay for a fire claim adjuster then will I have enough time to repair my home and replace my belongings?

Yes, you should. If you are properly insured and you hire an experienced public adjuster then you should have more than enough funds to restore your property, replace your belongings and pay the private adjuster his or her fee. We recommend at least consulting with an adjuster if you suspect your insurance company is not diligently handling your claim.

Will my insurance company drop me at renewal if I hire a fire insurance claim adjuster?

It is illegal for your insurance company to drop you for any reason other than Fraud or Material Misrepresentation. The company may elect to non-renew your policy, but that can only occur on the anniversary of your date of renewal. And, unless you have had several claims in a given time span, this rarely happens.

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