Written by Andy Gurczak

June 11, 2021

A Fire Insurance Claim Filing Guide

How To File A Fire Insurance Claim

A fire insurance claim filing guide isn’t easy to imp, but today we are going to help you try. Most homeowners insurance policies cover fire damage, including damage from wildfires. For this reason, there are more than a few things to know when filing a fire insurance claim. First and foremost, know that you have to get in touch with your insurer or the agent who sold you the homeowners insurance, as soon as possible. Then, the insurance company will assign an adjuster that will assess the damage. Afterwards, he will submit a monetary estimate for review.

After filing a fire insurance claim, the amount you are paid  will depend on the kind of coverage you have. “Replacement cost” coverage should cover the cost of repairing or replacing your home. In fact, this type of coverage could replace any lost or damaged items. “Actual cash value” coverage will pay you the value of your home and the damaged items inside. As a result, there is less depreciation.

To make sure you are properly covered and compensated after the fire insurance claim has been filed, be aware of the following:

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 1: Remember to document all the losses. 

“The more you can document your property losses before the insurance adjuster arrives, the faster the claims-filing process will go,” says Jeremy Thompson, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute (III), a not-for-profit group sponsored by the property and casualty insurance industry. “A standard homeowners insurance policy not only covers damage to the home’s structure but also the homeowner’s personal property.”

For this reason, you’ll want to make a list of everything you lost in the fire. This could take some time and reflection from everyone in the household. You want to be sure to start making this list as soon as possible so that you will remember to include everything lost by the time you file your fire insurance claim.

Remember, don’t throw anything away. It’ll be easier to prove that you lost the items on your list. Additionally, if you hold onto the items, the insurance adjuster can see the damage the fire has done to them. Furthermore, throwing the items away may cause the insurance company refuse to compensate you.

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 2: Be able to show the adjuster all the damage.

After filing a fire insurance claim, an adjuster will be sent your way. Make sure that you are home when the adjuster visits so that you may guide them through the site. Make sure that he or she gets a complete view of everything lost or damaged. It’s not enough just to walk through part of your home.

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 3: Verify the adjuster’s identity.

Scammers can show up after natural disasters. For this reason, you should ask the insurance company for the adjuster’s name beforehand. When he or she arrives, ask for identification to confirm it truly is an adjuster.

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 4: Document all communications.

After the adjuster leaves, remain in contact by email so that you have backup of all your communication. It is also important for you to keep notes about when an adjuster visits as well as any missed appointments. Additionally, document any phone calls and what you discussed. In fact, you should even document whether he or she was rude. You might not need this information at all, but it will be very useful if any disagreements have to be resolved in court. In short, document everything.

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 5: Make copies of all documents.

Copy everything you give to the adjuster after filing a fire insurance claim. Furthermore, duplicate important documents and simple things such as your list of loss or damaged property. If the adjuster advises you to start repairs, then get that permission in writing.

Remember, in an emergency situation, the first adjuster may be replaced by a new one during the fire insurance claim process. For this reason, having correspondence in writing is extremely important. Indeed, you want to be able to create a good handoff of information when the next adjuster comes in.

 Fire Insurance Claim: Image of a Burning House

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 6: Get multiple repair estimates.

Your homeowner’s policy will enable you to rebuild or repair your home after filing a fire insurance claim. “Actual cash value” policy, entitles you to the amount of money it takes to return your home or its contents to its market value before the fire. For example, if the house needed a new roof, the money you receive might be significantly less than what you’ll need for a quality rebuild. “Replacement cost” coverage entitles you to the amount it would take to replace the home or contents. It goes up to the limit fixed in your policy in advance. Only a “guaranteed replacement” policy, lets you claim all of your actual rebuilding costs.

Note: You don’t have to rebuild

A replacement coverage doesn’t mean you have to rebuild your home in the same place. In fact, you can rebuild at a different location. If the cost is more, you pay the difference. Furthermore, if you decide to use the money for something else, such as starting your own business or creating a retirement fund, your “replacement” policy will change to an “actual cash value” policy. As a result, you’ll get about 15% less money.

Furthermore, choose a contractor who has experience not only in building, but also dealing with insurance companies. Be sure that you and the insurance company are on the same page and agree on the scope of the project. If you’re dealing with an actual cash value policy, don’t accept the insurance company’s number unless satisfied that it’s a fair estimate. However, this type of coverage does not take into consideration the value of the land when estimating the property value.

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 7: Get additional estimates if necessary.

For either type of coverage, you’ll need an estimate of the prior market value or the cost to replace the damaged items or parts. Your insurance company will offer its own estimates, defined by its own adjusters. Because these adjusters work for the insurance company, it’s in their best interests to get you to quickly accept a modest settlement. Remember, you’re under no obligation to accept these numbers. Instead, you can hire an independent estimator.

If you have custom work in your house, an adjuster may not know how to properly estimate the value. Get an outside estimate from a contractor to get the most out of your fire insurance claim.

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 8: Verify what’s covered by your policy.

Remember, a standard homeowner’s and renter’s fire insurance claim covers damage caused by firefighters during the extinguishing process.

Standard homeowners and renters’ policies cover for the “loss of use” of your home. If your home becomes uninhabitable or inaccessible due to fire, they also cover additional living expenses (ALE). Rent or hotel bills, restaurant meals, transportation, clothing, are just some of these types of expenses. Obviously, there is a value limit. If your home is accessible and habitable but you can’t go back to it due to mandatory evacuation orders, you’re also covered for ALE.

A typical homeowners insurance policy also covers wildfire-caused damage to trees, shrubs, and plants. The limit per tree, shrub, or plant is generally about $500. In fact, debris removal is also covered. However, the amount depends on the policy.

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 9: Discuss any exclusions or limits in your policy.

After filing a fire insurance claim, and an estimate is complete, you might feel the compensation is too low. In that case, you can demand the carrier’s representative to explain in writing how he or she got to the value estimate. The representative should also include any reason certain items aren’t covered and whether there are any coverage limits.

If you think the wording in the policy is misleading, contact a local plaintiff’s attorney who specializes in insurance law. The Consumer Federation of America notes that courts have consistently ruled in favor of policyholders on policy ambiguities. File a complaint with your state’s department of insurance.

 

Fire Insurance Claim: Image of You and Your Public Adjuster filling a Fire Insurance Claim

 

Fire Insurance Claim Tip 10: Consider Hiring a Public Adjuster

Finally, you may not be able to reach an acceptable settlement of your claim despite hiring your own estimator or contractor. For this reason, you may want to consider hiring a public adjuster when dealing with a fire insurance claim. They can negotiate settlements with insurance companies. Obviously, there will be a fee. In some states there are caps for public adjuster fees. They typically are at 10 percent to 12 percent of the insurance payout. In other states there are either no caps or adjusters simply charge a flat fee.

Check with the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters to find the ideal public adjuster for handling your fire insurance claim. Additionally, consider asking past clients for testimonials.

There are four states that do not require a license to work as an adjuster: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, and South Dakota. If you live in one of those states, you should contact an attorney who works with catastrophe victims to help you find a reputable adjuster.

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