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Fire insurance claim
A house fire is one of the most traumatic events you can experience as a homeowner. If your home has been damaged or destroyed by a fire, you are probably feeling very overwhelmed. What lies ahead as far as the repair and recovery process go, can seem like a mountain of stress. Did you experience fire damage or smoke damage? What about water damage? Many questions will arise and the search for the answers seem a million miles away. It is indeed a troublesome time for you and your family.
If your property is insured, that insurance policy is your best bet to making you whole again. If this is your first experience with a major insurance claim, recognize that it’s basically a business agreement.
The claims process is generally referred to as the time that a policyholder notifies the insurance company of the incident, until the problem has been fixed. Here are some steps to take to make the process flow smoothly.
The first thing to do is to review your policy to determine how much and what type of coverage you have. Find out what is covered and what is excluded, and determine how your claim must be filed, and any deadlines that might apply. Most of this information can be found on the declarations page, which is usually located at the beginning of the policy. If you cannot locate your policy, contact your broker or insurance company immediately to obtain a copy. Do your best to read the policy a few times until you have a basic understanding of what is in it.
You should contact your insurance company as soon as possible to notify them of the type of loss you suffered. Be aware that they may require you to contact them within a certain amount of time after your loss has occurred. Most of this information is detailed in your policy, including if the notification must be made in writing.
Your insurance company will require you to submit certain information and documentation to start the claims process. This generally consist of a sworn statement from you about what happened and the extent of the damage you suffered. They may ask you for more information and you, as the policyholder, have an obligation to provide them with whatever they need. Be sure to be thorough in all your information and documentation and remember it is hard to get reimbursed for something that is not documented.
Once you have notified the insurance company of your loss and provide the information needed to start the claim, your insurer will assign the case to a claim’s representative. The claims rep will analyze your policy to determine what type of policy you have, your policy limits, and what is covered, what is excluded, your deductibles and any other information that might be needed. Once completed, the claims rep will send you a letter that details all the information. Most states laws will require this letter to be sent to you within 30 days after being notified of the loss. If you do not agree with the insurers analysis of your policy, it is important to contact them immediately and resolve those issues.
Keep in mind that if your house has suffered a partial loss, where the property has been damaged, but not completely destroyed, you still have the right to file an insurance claim. Fires that damage but do not destroy a home create special insurance claim issues. There might be hidden damage such as water, smoke, ash, mold or air quality issues. Even if there is no obvious damage to your home, it may have been impacted by extreme heat, smoke or fire retardant. Your best option is to have it inspected by a licensed qualified professional, such as a contractor or structural engineer. These professionals know what to look for. A good example of this is your roof. Your roof should be inspected for damage from burning embers, or structural damage from extreme heat. Also, they will want to inspect windows. Window frames may melt, discolor or blister due to heat. Glass can experience warping or discoloration and ultimately lead to moisture problems. Other issues to be addressed are structural steel damage, stucco, concrete and plumbing and heating systems.
In some cases, you may want to ask your insurance company for an advance of funds. If you were forced to evacuate your home during a fire, you may not have grabbed some basic necessities such as clothing, shoes, work uniforms, even your toothbrush. In most cases it is quite common to ask your insurance company for an advance against your eventual claim. Save the receipts for everything you buy and be reasonable.
After the fire department and inspectors have deemed the property secure, you have an obligation to mitigate damages. Make sure with the help of the fire department that the fire is not smoldering, to limit flare ups, and board up windows, doors, and any structural openings. To prevent vandalism, you may want to erect a fence to keep curious onlookers away. Be vigilant and keep a close eye on your property, making sure it hasn’t been disturbed or new problems have not arisen.
Make sure to keep track of your living expenses. Your insurance company will pay for the cost of a hotel, but if you are residing with friends or family, ask the insurance company to reimburse them. You can always point out that you are actually saving them money by residing with family instead of a hotel, or eating in a restaurant every day.
All insurance policies are different so it is extremely important to know what yours entails. After a disaster you want to get back to normal as soon as possible and your insurance company wants that too. In the case of a total loss, where the entire house and its contents were destroyed, insurance companies usually pay the policy limits. That means you can receive a check for what the home and contents were insured for at the time of the disaster.
Although you are probably completely overwhelmed by damage and loss at this time, it is extremely important to make a comprehensive accurate list of all the items lost, so you will be properly reimbursed. It cannot be stressed enough how imperative this step in the process is. Make sure to get help from family members. Remember that claims are easier to make when you have a home inventory list prepared, before disaster strikes.
ICC Public Adjusters doing business in North Carolina, South
Carolina and Georgia
It’s obvious, Call us to assist you in planning your claims process time line.
Even if you don’t hire us, we will help you get started, and offer valuable hints and insight into this complex claims process.
At ICC, we work solely on the policyholder’s behalf, so you can be sure you are getting the best independent and customer-focused service. If you don’t succeed, we don’t succeed
- Detail the full scope of property damage and estimate repair costs
- Perform content loss, personal injury and business impairment assessments
- Contract specialist to underpin and validate any claims
- Liaise directly with your insurance company, acting solely on your behalf
- Obtain the maximum pay-out possible subject to the findings of our reports
- Ensure your property is returned to its original state as soon as reasonably viable