Insurance companies have been known to cut corners during the fire insurance claim process. Since fire claims are naturally complex, most property owners blindly follow the lead of the insurance company’s claim adjuster. As such, be proactive if your home or business has been damaged by fire. To get you started, our public adjuster team has compiled these fire insurance claims tips.
Remain in control of your personal property until there is a strategy and plan in place for the ENTIRE fire insurance claim. For example, a claimant should prevent the insurance or any restoration company from removing items to be discarded or repaired. If you relinquish your personal property without first knowing all of your rights and options, you will end up throwing away thousands of your settlement dollars.
In other words, the money spent on cleaning damaged property will be deducted from the total claim, even if the attempts are unsatisfactory. In addition, you can’t “go back” once this decision has been made. Remember, the decision to restore (clean/repair) or replace damaged items is YOURS. Consult with a trusted public adjuster before allowing any company to start cleaning or restoring your property. This is perhaps the most important fire insurance claim tip!
Claims for fire and smoke damage are complex. The fire insurance claim process can be longer than most any other claim type. That being said, nothing will happen overnight. Above all, nothing good will happen if you rush into a major decision like hiring a someone to start rebuilding your home.
We recommend that claimants contact two or three companies to bid out the cost to repair your property’s structure. DO NOT sign any work order contract. This is the biggest mistake claimants make!
These estimates will allow you to gauge the TRUE cost to repair the structure to what the insurance company offers. Keep in mind that claim professionals such as a good public adjuster are able to utilize your policy to maximize settlement dollars. Most people can receive up to 35% above policy limits. An experienced public adjuster can prepare the documentation and negotiate those extra settlement dollars.
If you don’t have essentials like clothes, toiletries or food then ask your adjuster for an advance. Request this advance from the adjuster assigned to you by the insurance company. As a best practice, put the request in writing and also submit it directly to the insurance company.
Most insurance companies will grant this request. However, the insurance company will deduct the advanced amount from the final settlement. Contact a public adjuster if your insurance company hassles you about an advance for your fire insurance claim.
The insurance company should offer compensation for every item that was damaged by smoke and fire. For this to happen, you will need to compile your own personal property inventory. While this sounds like a large undertaking, it is essential since this portion of a fire insurance claim usually makes or breaks final settlement amounts. No one knows your personal property like you do! Start by going room by room. Write down every item, its age, its description and approximate price. Don’t overwhelm yourself! If you can’t remember the details then go back at a later date to fill in missing information.
Insurance companies use Proof of Loss forms during the fire insurance claim process. The claimant (you) makes a formal declaration about damages in this document. In addition, most insurance companies require this before they will tender any payment. Mistakes on the Proof of Loss form can jeopardize your claim, cause delays and even cause a denial of your claim. For directions on how to submit a Proof of Loss click here.
A good public adjuster will maximize almost all fire insurance claim settlements. That being said, get help from an experienced claim adjuster if you’ve received any of the following:
Keep track of all communications. For example, log every email and phone call. Request that the adjuster from the insurance company re-cap phone conversations in follow-up emails. Similarly, keep all receipts for money spent due to the fire loss. And most importantly, keep copies of all documents that pertain to your claim.
Don’t make the mistake of discontinuing payment of your insurance premium. The typical homeowner insurance policy includes liability coverage. This coverage will offer protection against accidents that could occur at the loss site.
An insurance company cannot cancel or “drop” you for any reason other than fraud or material misrepresentation. In other words, you cannot lose your insurance for filing a fire insurance claim. Fire claims carry heavy workloads for insurance company adjusters. In addition, public adjusters hold claim adjusters accountable. 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.
In conclusion, if you’re in the thick of the fire insurance claim process try to stay calm and be proactive. This will go a long way in securing a favorable fire insurance claim settlement. Get basic information and other fire insurance claim tips in this article written by ABC News.
Call us 24/7 if you have any questions about the fire insurance claim process. We have ready insurance appraisers and public adjusters in Florida, Georgia and 15 other states across the US. We hope that these fire insurance claim tips help you.