The fire insurance claim process is inherently complex. To make matters worse, insurance companies often cut corners or misdiagnose the full cost to repair a property. By nature, fire claims require attention to detail during the claim process. Trusting homeowners and business owners blindly follow the lead of the insurance company’s claim adjuster at their own expense. This often results in delays, low settlements and even denied fire insurance claims. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Follow these fire insurance claim tips complied by our experienced public adjusters which will help ensure a fast and accurate claim settlement for you.
Releasing your contents/ personal property to a restoration company without first knowing all of your rights and options WILL likely waste thousands of claim dollars. Insurance money spent on cleaning or trying to clean smoke and fire damaged property will be subtracted from settlement proceeds. This area of the fire insurance claim process is usually the most often mismanaged by property owners. If you’re handling the claim without professional help then at least speak with an experienced public adjuster before relinquishing your contents to a restoration company.
Since nothing will happen overnight do not be pressured into hiring a general contractor or restoration company before YOU have established the true value of your claim. Contact two or three licensed general contractors who have worked fire damaged properties and request each one present an estimate to repair your property to its pre-fire condition. DO NOT sign any work order contract until you know what the insurance company will pay. If there’s a large discrepancy then consult with a public adjuster. Keep in mind, a good public adjuster can help claimants who have suffered a total loss recoup up to 35% above policy limits. Most states prohibit general contractors from negotiating insurance claims.
If the fire destroyed all of your possessions then request an advance against your settlement. This advance can be used to purchase living essentials like toiletries, clothes and other living supplies. Keep in mind that the monies advanced will be deducted from settlements received at a later date.
…then do it yourself. Who betters knows your stuff than you? No one. Compiling your own personal property inventory will pay off. Questions about valuation, substantiation or depreciation can be delegated to an experienced professional, but the list of items damaged by fire and smoke should be compiled by you. Go thorough each room of your property and write down every item, age, description and approximate price. Everything from toilet paper to toothpicks should be accounted.
A Proof of Loss form is an important document used commonly during the fire insurance claim process. It’s a declaration made by the policyholder regarding the amount of damage being claimed. Read our recent article about tips on how to submit a Proof of Loss. You’ll likely be required to submit the form before receiving any settlement proceeds. Mistakes on the Proof of Loss form can cause major delays and jeopardize the chances of obtaining the settlement you’re entitled to collect. Get it right the first time. Contact an experienced public adjuster for help.
Get a binder and keep track of all communications between you, vendors and the insurance company. Keep receipts for all expenditures. Track and log of every email and phone call. Keep copies of all documents pertaining to your fire insurance claim that you submit to the insurance company and received from the insurance company.
It’s illegal for an insurance company to cancel a policy for any reason other than fraud or material misrepresentation. That means you cannot lose your policy coverage for filing a fire insurance claim or for engaging the help of a public adjuster. Fire claims require heavy workloads for insurance company adjusters and sometimes more when a public adjuster is involved. Be wary if the claim adjuster from your insurance company becomes aggressive, discourages you from hiring a public adjuster or pressures you into accepting a settlement you’re not happy with.
If you’ve filed a fire insurance claim then your bottom line will likely benefit from an experienced public adjuster being involved. In most cases, a good public adjuster can earn the fee by the difference he or she can make in the settlement amount.
If you’re going at it alone you must contact a trusted and experienced public adjuster if your insurance company has sent you a reservation of rights letter, a demand to participate in an Examination Under Oath (EUO), a letter stating that your fire claim has been ruled suspicious or is under investigation and/or a notice that your fire claim has been denied, underpaid or the claim process is at a standstill.
If you’re navigating the fire insurance claim process then being proactive will ensure the best settlement in the least amount of time. For more tips on fire insurance claims visit this article written by ABC News.
If you need guidance about next steps and how to stay ahead of any potential issues then give us a call. We’re available 24 hours a day at (800) 572-7914. We have fire insurance appraisers and public adjusters in Texas, Florida, Minnesota and 14 others states across the U.S. ready to help.
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