Be ready to spend more time and energy on the claim process if your home or property is damaged or destroyed by fire and you file a fire insurance claim. It requires a lot of effort to list down and describe everything you have lost and how much it cost to fix or replace each item than what most people know. It is what they call as Documenting a Claim. And it has to be accomplished or you will not be paid the insurance money that you are entitled to. And then when it is completed, then you will have to start negotiating with your insurance company or else you will probably be paid less than what you are owed with.
During documentation and negotiation with your insurance claim, you can hire professionals to assist you. In most countries, they are known as a public fire claim adjuster. These public fire claim adjusters solely work for policy holders and not the insurers. There are two other kinds of fire claim adjusters and they are the ones who work for the insurance companies. First one is called the Company or staff adjusters who are directly hired by the insurance company. The other one is the so-called independent adjusters that work for the insurance company on contractual basis. Company or staff and independent fire adjusters are employed and paid by the insurance company, not the policy holders, and these types of adjusters report to them directly.
You may very well be fine on your own when you file for a fire insurance claim, or you could do better by getting assistance–this is a personal choice that you should make based on your own situation. A certified fire claim adjuster can represent you and be your advocate during the whole process of filing your claim. They can help in negotiation to get your fire claim adjusted and settled. When you have experienced a severe loss, the very last thing you need is additional problems, so assess closely before hiring a fire claim adjuster. It would be best to resist too good to be true sales pitches and do not employ hastily. The claim process is tedious and includes leg work, mountains of paperwork, basic math, insurance jargon, and negotiation.
Steps in Dealing with Insurance and Fire Claim Adjusters
Here are proven tips to keep in mind when you interact with your insurance company and fire claim adjusters:
- Get an advance payment.
You might not have seized basic essentials if you had been pressured to leave your home— from toothbrush to clothes that you need to wear for work. The homeowner’s policy will cover the full cost of replacing these items, and you do not have to file a claim and then get it approved before going to a department store to buy the outfit you need for work.
Instead, you can request for an advance from your insurance company from your eventual claim. Ask for your insurance company’s representative to give you a check wherever you are staying, whether it is a hotel or at the house of a friend. Save all the receipts for everything that you will be buying and be sensible in when you buy necessary stuff — if you have lost slacks and a suit jacket, do not go to those branded shops to get one because you will end up paying the difference.
Verify your insurance policy— even though the house itself has “replacement” coverage, you might only have “actual cash value” for just the personal belongings that have been in your house. A great agent should warn you regarding this and advise that you purchase an endorsement to cover your belongings under a replacement policy as well.
2. Safeguard your property.
Each policy requires that you perform reasonable actions to significantly lessen the damage to your property. In legal terms, this is regarded as your obligation to mitigate the damages. This requires such common-sense precautionary measures such as trying to cover a part of your leaking roof with even a plastic tarp before it can be fixed or if you found a burst pipe, then you can turn off the water to avoid further damage. These costs will be paid by your insurance company when you make your claim.
The following are other examples of ways to significantly reduce damages that you may need to take:
Stop smoulders. When your house is still burning after a fire, get in touch with the fire department to do whatever is needed to avoid a flare-up.
Board it up. Board your property to prohibit vandalism and also consider installing a temporary cross-link fence to restrict people away.
Be extremely cautious. You might need to keep a close watch of your own property based on the situation, keeping an eye for current problems and make certain it has not been disturbed.
3. File your claim as soon as possible.
All policies mandate homeowners to declare their loss at the earliest reasonable opportunity. You can conform by making a phone call or sending an email to your agent. You will then be required to submit a proof of loss claim proof, wherein there is a need for you to list down all your losses as well as list the value of each. If you will not inform your insurance company right away, you may be far below the list when the time comes for your insurance company to send a fire claim adjuster to handle your claim.
Pro Tip: Get a binder.
You would have to be organized when dealing with your insurance company over your fire insurance claim. Phone calls, text messages, emails and letters can be essential proof if you and the insurance company will vary about who said what to whom and when it happened. Keep notes during each phone call and organize your correspondence in one part of a binder. Use other sections of the binder to keep the estimates, receipts, expenses, permits and repair contracts. Do not ever throw away any original document; produce a copy if your insurance company seeks to see a claim or receipt.
4. Make sure that your insurance company will respond to your claim as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, insurance companies are required by law to deal with fire claims in a reasonable and timely manner. For instance, in California, within 30 days after receiving your claim, they should be able to send you a “Notice of Intentions.” If there is no question in your insurance coverage, you are also supposed to be paid within that period. If you still have not heard from your insurance company regarding your fire claim and you think it is also pointlessly dragging its heels, you can a write a letter to them and send a copy of the letter to the Insurance Department of your state. Once they are in the middle of a crisis, insurance companies are far less inclined to string you along knowing that all eyes are on them.
5. Monitor your living expenses.
Your policy will also include a “loss of use” provision that allows you to be reimbursed for your living expenses while you are away from your home. Nevertheless, you are only entitled to added living costs— which is, the difference between both the costs of living at home on a daily basis and the present cost of living. For instance, if you ate at home before the fire and normally spend $200 a week for your groceries, and yet now you spend $300 a week in cafes, you can only claim $100.
Moreover, when it gets down to the hotel bill, you may very well be able to claim the whole amount. Additionally, you will still need to pay your mortgage, tax payments, and insurance, even if you are not living at your own house.
On the other hand, several evacuees opt to live or stay with family or friends. While you may not be paying your hosts, you may still be able to persuade your insurance company to compensate them for the expense of letting you live with them. Request your hosts to stipulate the room value as well as the services they provide. Be rational and precise and also be willing to negotiate this one with your insurance company. It would help to point out just how much more your insurance company will be paying if you chose to stay at a hotel and eat in restaurants.
6. Have the exact estimates for repair.
The homeowner’s policy will permit you to reconstruct or repair your house. When you have an Actual Cash Value policy, you are entitled to the sum of money it requires to bring back your house as well as its contents in its fair value prior to the fire— which could be considerably less from what you would need for a quality rebuilding if it had been run down and needs a new roof.
If you have coverage for Replacement Costs, you are entitled to the amount needed to replace the house or its content but only up to a maximum amount which has been set in advance in your policy. There is a special policy form which is called Guaranteed Replacement coverage, wherein it allows you to claim the whole of your actual rebuilding expenses.
You will need an estimate of the previous market price or the expense to replace the damaged things or items for either type of insurance coverage. Your insurance provider will be providing their own estimates, actually given by their own fire claim adjuster. Because these fire claim adjusters work for the insurance company, it is in the insurance company’s best financial interest to get you to accept a small settlement as soon as possible. You are not in any way obliged to accept the settlement they are offering.
Alternatively, you can hire a public fire claim adjuster to work for you and be paid for by you. Choose an adjuster that knows the ins and outs of how insurance companies tend to react to typical problems. Do not approve the amount offered by the insurance company not unless you are convinced that it is indeed a reasonable approximation as to what a buyer would also have paid for your property just before the catastrophe.
7. Do not stop paying for your premiums.
Continuing to pay insurance premiums for homeowners to safeguard property that is badly damaged or lost may seem absurd, but stopping your payments is a big mistake. Keep in mind that the homeowner’s policy involves your and your household’s liability protection, as well as for your pets. This could be convenient if, for instance, your stressed-out pet chews up a costly Oriental carpet while staying out at the house of your sister-in-law.
When you are planning to stay somewhere for a long time, call your agent and request for that address to be linked as your second place to cover it with the liability coverage. Ask your insurance company to set limits on the part of the insurance policy covering the structure when your own house has been destroyed and request for a respective decrease in premiums.
8. It will not be over until you say so.
Your insurance company would like your fire insurance claim to be closed as quickly as possible. The longer time that your claim is open the higher the likelihood that you could discover an additional loss and file a claim for it. Homeowners almost always discover losses they previously overlooked, maybe because of the stress of the disaster. Protect against such a probability by having to wait for your fire insurance claim to be closed for at least a few months.
Do not be alarmed if you get an insurance company check that says that you accept the payment of your claim in full release. Do not believe it. From there, send a letter to the insurance company, cordially thanking them for the check and informing them you really do not consider the matter to be completed and closed.