When a fire damages your home, it’s understandable to be shocked and overwhelmed. You may not know where to go next and you may find yourself struggling to get your home back together. You will likely contact your insurance company, only to find they’re more unhelpful than anyone in this situation.
This is where an insurance adjuster can come in and handle the entire fire damage claims process for you, eventually helping you reach the highest possible settlement on your insurance claim. Let’s discuss how to handle the fire damage insurance claim process, including how a public adjuster can be your best option in this scenario.
Preparing for a fire
Before fire damages strike, you can make a few preparations that can set you up for success if a house fire ever occurs. Keeping track of your belongings, understanding how insurance policies work and determining how much fire insurance you need are all excellent steps to take. It’s better to prepare for the worst in case a fire happens rather than scramble to restore or replace your property afterward.
Make a Home Inventory
Even before your house burns down, you’ll have to think about the value of your belongings by making a home inventory. Keep an ongoing document of your possessions and their worth to determine how much insurance you need and keep a record in case of damage. Try to update it once a year. You should also think about whether to insure your belongings for actual cash value or replacement cost. A public insurance adjuster can help you document your home inventory.
You’ll want to start your home inventory in an accessible, contained area like a single cabinet, closet or shelf. You can also start by going over recent purchases. Describe each item’s make and model, where you bought it, what you paid for it and any other detail you might need in a claim. It’s also a good idea to record the serial numbers of items like electronics. You can take photographs and videos of your items for documentation.
Be careful when considering expensive items, as you might need special coverage if these items may increase in value. Remember to document off-site items, such as those kept in storage facilities. You should also always store a copy of your inventory outside the home in case of property damage from a fire or another disaster. If you have the right home inventory, you’re more likely to be able to prove losses from a fire, making the insurance company less likely to deny your claim.
Understand Insurance Policies
The least expensive insurance might fail to cover fires, so be sure you know how to read an insurance policy. Understanding your insurance policy helps you negotiate more when filing a claim while also ensuring you have the coverage you need.
Insurance policies include the following components:
- Insurance declaration: The declaration provides an overview of the insurance policy. It consists of all identifying information, including the insured parties, your policy limits, what the policy covers and the policy period.
- Insuring agreement: The agreement describes what the insurance company will cover for you, also called covered perils. Fires are commonly considered a covered peril. This section also often includes information that many insurance companies won’t cover damages caused by poor upkeep.
- Exclusions: The exclusions section is one of the most important parts of your insurance policy, as it describes what the insurance company won’t cover. Insurance companies often exclude certain cases because they’re too expensive to cover completely.
- Conditions: You’ll want to make sure you thoroughly review the conditions page, as your insurance company might deny your claim if you don’t meet the requirements. The conditions will tell you precisely what you need to do when you file a claim.
- Definitions: While this section is smaller, it’s still essential. The definitions page is your source for understanding any phrases or words you don’t understand in your insurance policy.
Determine How Much Fire Insurance You Need
When choosing the right homeowners insurance, you’ll want to make sure you make fire protection a priority from the start. You should work with an independent agent when selecting a home and fire insurance policy to ensure you’re completely covered.
Standard homeowners insurance offers four types of coverage:
- Structural coverage: Structural coverage, also called dwelling coverage, ensures your home is covered in case of a disaster like a fire, hurricane or tornado. However, a standard policy will not pay for damage caused by a flood, earthquake or other routine damage. You always want to purchase enough coverage to rebuild your home in the worst-case scenario.
- Personal belongings coverage: This type of coverage ensures your furniture, clothes and other personal belongings are protected if they’re destroyed due to a fire or natural disaster. Typically, this coverage is 50% to 70% of the house’s structural insurance.
- Liability protection: Liability protection covers you against bodily injury or property damage lawsuits other people inflict on you or family members. They typically start at about $100,000. Work with an insurance professional to determine what level you should purchase. In the case of a fire, personal liability coverage can protect you if a fire spreads and damages a neighbor’s property.
- Additional living expenses: If a fire or other disaster damages your house, additional living expenses will cover the costs of meals and lodging during the time you need to live away from home.
Immediately After The Fire
If you fail to gather sufficient evidence or documentation for the losses you’ve suffered from a fire, your fire damage insurance claim is more likely to be denied. During the fire claim settlement procedure, consider your home inventory, properly document your losses, and complete a Proof of Loss form to help ensure the insurance company doesn’t deny your claim. Work with a public adjuster like Performance Adjusting to ensure your claim is comprehensive and accurate. A public adjuster takes care of the documentation process to prevent denied claims due to lack of evidence or documentation.
Before even thinking of filing the fire insurance claim, you want to make sure your property is safe and secure. Even small fires could easily have damaged gas lines, electrical wires, support beams, ceilings, floors and other components of your house. If a fire has caused damage to your home, it may not be as secure as it looks at first sight. Have fire officials inspect the damage to deem your house safe before entering. They’ll professionally assess the fire damage, determine how it started and give a better estimate of what needs repair or should be considered totaled.
Now that you can enter, take pictures of your home. Just like with any other insurance claim, having your own pictures will go a long way to support your claim and streamline the process. It also shows what the fire damage looked like immediately after the fire and rather than when the insurance adjuster came to assess your property. Because it may take a while before the insurance adjuster is able to come out to your property, it’s a good rule to always have your own documentation.
Proof of Loss Form
You should thoroughly document evidence of all losses to prevent your fire damage insurance claim from being denied. You should always complete a Proof of Loss form after property damage from a fire. This form is one of the most critical pieces of information during the fire insurance claim settlement procedure.
A public insurance adjuster can help ensure you submit a Proof of Loss form on time. Many policies require that you submit the form within 60 days of the loss. When completing the form, you should include claim estimates, inventories and all other supporting documents. Then, verify the details on the form are correct and get your document notarized.
The Fire Damage Insurance Claim Process
Let’s discuss what you should do during each part of the claims process.
Start the Claims Process After Gathering Documentation
After taking pictures and gathering your own documentation of your house fire, call your insurance company and file a fire insurance claim. Contact them the same day if possible, as getting the process started as quickly as possible gives you a better chance of getting the money you need from your insurance company faster. Familiarize yourself with the fire damage claim process you and your insurance adjuster will follow. Your insurance company will be able to answer your questions, as every insurance company has a specific protocol they follow for each type of claim. Be sure you understand what is needed from you before they arrive to get answers to all your questions.
Start the Claims Process After Gathering Documentation
After taking pictures and gathering your own documentation of your house fire, call your insurance company and file a fire insurance claim. Contact them the same day if possible, as getting the process started as quickly as possible gives you a better chance of getting the money you need from your insurance company faster.
Familiarize yourself with the fire damage claim process you and your insurance adjuster will follow. Your insurance company will be able to answer your questions, as every insurance company has a specific protocol they follow for each type of claim. Be sure you understand what is needed from you before they arrive to get answers to all your questions.
During the Claims Process
Now that you have successfully filed the insurance claim, you can do a couple of things to speed along the process. For one, stay on top of everything yourself and push your insurance company to speed up the process if you feel they are moving too slowly.
Insurance companies must send you a notice of intentions within 30 days, meaning they must at least send you everything they will and will not cover. If you have reached a settlement with your insurance company, they are required to pay you within that 30 days. If they are dragging along the process, fight them on finishing up the claim so you can get to fixing your home.
Wrapping Up Fire Insurance Claims
Once you have reached your settlement and received the money to fix your home, what’s next? No matter the extent of damage to your home, you will want to look into hiring a restoration company. Fire damage, especially from smoke and soot, is nothing to ignore. We highly recommend hiring a restoration company to fix any fire damage in your home.
However, you can also use the insurance money to locate a new property to build on. If this is the case, a restoration company is definitely in your best interest to hire, as they can help build you a new home with the insurance money. However, it is important to note that this will only work if you have replacement coverage on your insurance policy. Before considering rebuilding completely, check with your insurance company.
More General Tips When Dealing With a Fire Insurance Claim
When trying to make a fire insurance claim, the insurance company may not cover your property if you don’t have the right kind of insurance, or they could fail to provide enough money to fix damages and replace your belongings. However, it’s important you keep fighting for the claim you deserve after a disaster.
Consider Whether Your Property Is Vacant
Although vacant homes are likely to suffer from fire damage because they’re not inhabited or monitored as frequently, many homeowners insurance policies don’t cover vacant homes. A home is considered vacant if no one intends to live there. It typically happens when a home is pending sale for longer than expected, a home is going through a renovation or a property is an investment rather than used for living.
Vacant homes bring higher risks, so they cost more to insure. If you don’t have the right kind of homeowners insurance for your vacant home, you could get your homeowner’s insurance claim denied. To ensure you’re getting the right insurance coverage, you should know whether your house is considered vacant.
Unoccupied homes are different from vacant homes. If you’re away from home for a slightly extended period, insurance companies may consider your home unoccupied. A vacant home differs from an unoccupied house in that an unoccupied house is furnished and includes all the necessary facilities needed for someone to readily live there. Vacant homes pose a higher risk to the insurance companies, as emergency response time is faster for unoccupied homes.
For the insurance company to consider a home vacant, you’ll most likely need to be away from home for 30 or more days. However, you should check your specific insurance policy to determine when your insurance company assumes your home is vacant. You can also work with a public insurance adjuster to help you navigate a denied vacant house fire insurance claim. An insurance adjuster will help you handle the insurance company and get you the most money for your claim.
If you own a property with a vacant home, you’ll need to get a separate fire insurance policy beyond a basic homeowners’ policy. Most vacant homeowners use a DP-1 policy to cover fire, lightning or internal explosions. Insurance companies typically don’t cover these homes in standard policies because they have a higher risk of break-ins, potentially leading to arson. They also experience slower emergency response times, as emergency response teams often give preference to occupied homes over vacant properties during emergencies.
FILE FOR AN ADVANCE
An advance allows you to replace damaged items in your home from the fire before the initial claim process begins. In most cases, a fire may leave you without some of your belongings for a period of time. Rather than waiting the potential of 30 days for your insurance company to reimburse you for the loss or damage of items you need immediately, you can file an advance to get the money to purchase the items yourself. Your homeowner’s insurance policy should fully cover lost or damaged possessions.
KEEP FIGHTING FOR YOUR CLAIM
Unfortunately, your insurance company may not give you enough money to fix all of the fire damages in your home. An insurance policy should be there to help protect you and your family in case of a disaster. However, insurance companies can sometimes underpay you or even deny your claim. If you are unable to get the money you need to repair everything in your home fully, there’s no point in having fire insurance. You should always keep fighting for your claim to receive the highest possible settlement.
Performance Adjusting Is on Your Side During All Insurance Claims
If you are not receiving the best possible settlement on your insurance claim, then you need someone on your side. As a public adjusting company, Performance Adjusting has been representing families and their insurance claims for more than 18 years. We will handle your claim from start to finish with no extra costs added on to you.
Let someone else handle the stress when a fire destroys your home — you already have enough to deal with. If you live in the state of Rhode Island and you need to navigate your fire insurance claim, call Performance Adjusting today at 401-724-9111 for a free consultation!