There’s nothing more devastating than recovering from fire damage. Not only have so many of your cherished things been completely destroyed, but what’s left is often covered in soot and/or the haunting smell of smoke—a continuous reminder of the atrocity you’ve somehow managed to survive.
With all of the overwhelming emotions they’re sorting through, it’s no wonder that most most fire damage victims don’t realize the full range of options they have when it comes to repairing, replacing, or rebuilding the damage to their home and its contents. Unless they’ve hired a fire damage repair advocate, otherwise known as a public adjuster, the process that unfolds following that first call to the insurance company can be nearly as harrowing as the fire itself—if not worse in many ways—because of stress and the financial ramifications of making one poor choice after another.
Imagine the following scenario: You receive your settlement, part of which was withheld by your insurance company to cover an exorbitant restoration bill, even though the items you received back weren’t fully restored. Then, a month or two later, you realize you’re having trouble with a few of your electric items or your foliage is dying. Could the fire have caused this damage and it just went unnoticed until now? Without a second, independent investigation of your claim, you’ll never really know the answer to that. All you’ll know is that you’re replacing things they may have been related to the fire out of your own pocket. This unfortunate synopsis is one we see nearly everyday, if not multiple times a day.
Step 1: The insured contacts his/her insurance company to file a fire damage repair claim, placing all faith in the notion that the insurance company will take care of everything.
Pay close attention because it’s what occurs after this initial contact that can quickly affect the outcome of everything including the amount of stress you’re forced to endure as well as the final amount of your settlement check.
Step 2: The insurance adjuster (who, remember, is hired by your insurance company begins the appraisal process.
Step 3: The insurance adjuster will most likely advise that you contact one of his/her preferred contractors who will repair your fire damage.
Since the insurance adjuster who performs your appraisal is hired by your insurance company, it’s crucial to understand that his/her appraisal of your fire damage and the repair required may not be as thorough as it should be. Why? You ask. Isn’t his/her job to be as detailed and scrupulous as possible? Ideally, yes. Realistically? No. Your insurance company’s bottom line, like most companies, is to turn profit. The more they pay out in settlements each year, they less money they make. Likewise, the contractors your insurance adjuster recommends have longstanding relationships with your insurance company, so naturally these contractors are more motivated to simply follow the notations from your insurance company’s appraisal rather than point out further damage they might notice along the way.
Unfortunately, the unsuspecting fire damage victim, overwhelmed by their loss, is only too happy to contact the insurance adjuster’s preferred contractors. It’s one less thing I have to think about, they say to themselves. Why research fire damage repair contractors when this friendly insurance adjuster is recommending someone whom they’ve already worked with and probably does a great job? We agree. On the surface, it really does seem like a good (and headache-free) decision.
But let’s return to reality: The insurance adjuster and his/her preferred contractor may not exactly be forthcoming about all of your rights and options. For example, they might recommend that you have furniture and/or clothing professionally cleaned rather than replaced. In fact, they might not even mention replacement as an option at all. Weeks later, you discover that these items are still permeated with smoke, with a $30,000 cleaning bill attached that you’re still responsible for. In fact, it’s going to get deducted right out of your final settlement. What an absolute waste of tens of thousands of dollars when these damaged items could have been replaced (and in many cases, for not much more). This course of events is typically what the clients we work with tend to encounter before they decide to get a second opinion and contact us.
Step 4: You’re compensated for the damage your insurance company discovered. Not for the damage that may actually exist.
Step 5: You end up with a potentially meager settlement, along with your “restored” items.
It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Policyholders generally assume that in the event of fire damage, they’re going to get their full structure and/or personal property limits, especially in the case where there’s a total loss. The reality is, it’s very rare that that an insurance company will pay you a maximum settlement. Instead, unless you hire a public adjuster experienced in fire damage repair, your settlement could very well be just a fraction of the full extend of your damage.
In the meantime, the bills from the insurance company’s recommended contractors and restoration companies continue to arrive and you’re paying them regardless of whether you’re satisfied with the results. Not to mention the fact that you could end up paying for additional repairs out of your own pocket because of new building standards and codes that may have been enacted after your home was built. Standards and codes that the insurance adjuster should have considered when appraising your fire damage.
Again, we see this happen to fire damage victims all of the time. In fact, in one recent incident, one of our fire damage clients happened to live in a home that was built several years ago, during a time when it wasn’t unusual for kitchen countertops to be permanently secured to the cabinets. This structural detail was overlooked by our client’s insurance company who attempted to compensate our client solely for the cabinets, arguing that no damage had occurred to the countertops. Before calling us, these homeowners were facing the financial burden of purchasing new countertops. However, our own investigation revealed that because of the building standards at the time the home was built, our client was entitled to a total replacement of both the cabinets and the countertops.
As you’re probably gathering, the fire itself is really just the beginning of what can quickly transform into a nightmarish, frustrating process that can take years to overcome both emotionally and financially if you choose rely solely on your insurance adjuster’s advise. Until they begin researching for other options, many fire damage victims don’t realize they have resources they can turn to for help—fire damage repair experts who will advocate on their behalf.
Step 1: Contact their insurance company to report the claim.
Step 2: Contact a public adjuster who performs an independent and thorough investigation of ALL damage to ensure that every loss, however small, is documented and accounted for.
Step 3: Work with the insurance company’s adjuster under the guided wisdom of their public adjuster/fire damage repair advocate whose bottom line is to get the highest settlement possible.
Step 4: Know to avoid hiring the insurance company’s recommended contractor, opting instead for an experienced contractor of their choice.
Step 5: Feel empowered to make their own decisions when it comes to what will be repaired and what will be replaced.
Step 6: Avoid needless stress and frustration while waiting for their fire damage repair settlement because they’ve hired an informed advocate who watches out for them from every angle of the claims process.
Step 7: Receive the maximum settlement amount (in some cases, as much as 35% above and beyond the policy limit(s)) and in the most expedient manner.
Hiring a public adjuster will be the most important and empowered decision you make in your fire damage claims process, since you’ll be provided with far more options and ones that lean in your favor rather than your insurance company’s. Armed with our public adjusters extensive knowledge of fire damage repair claims and our investigative findings, you’ll know exactly you’ve really lost, as well as the full range of options you have whether you choose to repair or replace them. Remember, this is your home and your insurance coverage. The way we see it, how you choose to repair or replace damaged items and whom you hire to do it is your decision—our job is 1) make sure you know your options; 2) remind your insurance company that you have them and 3) Negotiate for the settlement you’re entitled to.
You still have options even if you’ve already begun the claims process or received a settlement. As long as it’s within the statute of limitations since you filed your claim, we can still help you win the settlement you deserve. In fact, we have a 100% success rate in getting more money for our clients every time— even after their fire damage repair claim had already been settled with their insurance company.
If you haven’t yet initiated your fire damage repair claim or you’re just getting started, we cannot emphasize enough how important it is to contact us, or an experienced public adjuster, from day one. Don’t ask us. Ask the thousands of clients we’ve worked with who navigated the process in a much more informed, smooth, and predictable manner under our stewardship. Your goal should be to know your rights and options and get the highest settlement possible. Our main objective is to uphold your rights and options and win you a bigger settlement, in the quickest way possible.
Because we probe even the most trivial-seeming of details when it comes to your fire damage, we work directly with your insurance company to win you the settlement you actually need to repair and or replace what would have otherwise been overlooked (and then eventually paid for out of your own pocket). Depending on the scope of your damage, which we’ll determine during our independent appraisal, you may be entitled to up to 35% above and beyond your policy limit. At Insurance Claims Consultants, we’ve been in this industry for over thirty years and have a good rapport with insurance companies; we know the ins and outs of attaining the settlement you’re entitled to in order to fully recover. We strongly encourage you to considering hiring or at least consult with an experienced public adjuster firm like Insurance Claims Consultants shortly after you file your fire damage claim. Give us a call at any time, for any reason. We’re here 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns.
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