A fire in your home or business has great potential for financial loss. In these circumstances, knowing your homeowners policy and the right steps to documenting and submitting your claim increases your opportunity to receive a fair and just settlement from the insurance company.
Insurance claims can be complicated. Fine print, complex language, and terms you may have never heard before. In addition to the possibility of your home not being habitable, these types of claims often require a significant amount of time and effort — from meeting with insurance adjusters and contractors to getting estimates and making sure that everything is accounted for.
After all of that, your insurance company may undervalue your claim or cause unreasonable delays in the process, which can leave you feeling forced to settle and think it's the best you'll get.
You just want your home fixed. Your business operating again. To get back to “normal.”
Get Help with a Delayed, Denied or Underpaid Fire Insurance Claim
Filing a Fire Insurance Claim
While each policy is a little different, there are some things you can do to avoid potential problems when making a claim:
Contact your insurance company: Make you insurance agent or claims department aware of the loss immediately to start the claims process. This is something you won't want to wait on.
Document all fire-related damages: A fire can cause obvious damage to your home’s structure, including walls, rafters, and roofs. But many times there are significant “hidden” damages from smoke or water used to put out the fire. Even the intense heat from a fire could cause unseen damage. You may need help from a professional to thoroughly examine your loss and ensure nothing is missed. Leaving unseen damages unaccounted for can significantly increase your repairs cost.
Protect your property and prevent further loss: Many policies allow for emergency repairs to protect your home or business from further damage. But if additional loss occurs after a fire, your insurance company may hold you responsible. Consider temporary fixes to protect your property from weather or theft, as well as document any damage possibly obscured by repairs with photos and save any material or contractor receipts. If you are unsure about what emergency repairs to make, speak with your insurance company.
Inventory personal property: The contents of your home are typically covered for loss from a fire. Inventory damaged personal possessions such as electronics, clothing, and furniture. This includes considering any “upgrades” that you may have made to your home — there’s a big difference in the replacement cost of a stone countertop over a laminate counter. Your insurance company may only pay to repair or replace with basic materials or items.
Document costs: Did you spend money for emergency repairs? Is your home uninhabitable, leaving you to stay in a hotel? Did you have to move furniture or inventory into temporary storage? Save any and all of your receipts related to the loss. Having these will help your case should a dispute arise in the future.
Save and document correspondence with your insurance company: Get a file or a large envelope to write your claim number and insurance company’s contact information. Create records of any phone calls that you make or receive from the insurance company. Write down the date, time, person you spoke with, and a short summary of the call — note anything that has to do with a responsibility (whether it is something you or your insurance company needs to do), money, a day or time, or discussion about coverage. It’s also important to save any and all written communications, including emails and letters. If there is a dispute about your claim, your coverage, or the value of the loss, having well-documented communications may help you remember what was said weeks or months prior. And if you take legal action against a claim dispute, this information can be invaluable.