Do you know how to navigate your home insurance claim after a house fire? One of the first things you should do after a fire is get in touch with your insurance company and inform them that there has been a fire. Informing the insurance company, also known as “providing notice,” will allow them to open or “file” your claim and begin the process to reimbursement. The sooner you file your insurance claim, the sooner you can get your reimbursement.
One of the most urgent expenses you will have to deal with after a fire is going to be temporary accommodations, replacement clothes, and food. These are known as additional living expenses, and they are included in most home insurance policies. However, even though they are covered, you will have to pay these expenses upfront and you won’t be reimbursed until later in the process.
There’s also personal property coverage and structure coverage. These cover the costs of replacing those belongings that were inside your home at the time of the fire and the costs of repairing the damage to your home itself, respectively.
Once you open an insurance claim, the insurance company will assign your claim to an insurance adjuster to investigate and manage. Remember that the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company and one of their goals is to reduce the payout the company has to make. An insurance adjuster will:
- Inspect the damage to your home and personal property
- Review any police or fire reports
- Interview the homeowners and policy holder
An insurance adjuster will also likely take photos of the damage and they will need a completed Schedule of Loss. A Schedule of Loss is a detailed list of all of the eligible personal contents that were lost or damaged in the fire. It may include clothing, luggage, electronics, media, appliances, artwork, furniture, and more. Consider asking friends and family for help generating this list, as it is easy to overlook items as you struggle to remember everything you owned. It can help to go through old photos that show your contents and the inside of your home, so you may want to check your cloud and social media accounts, as well as asking friends and family to do the same.
From there, the insurance adjuster will make a recommendation to the company in order to determine the amount that the company should be offering you for settlement of the claim. This one-sided determination is why you need help dealing with insurance adjusters, especially if you have a disagreement. If you feel as though the offer made by the insurance company is less than fair, you have two options:
a) Hire a public insurance adjuster who works for you, or
b) Hire a lawyer who practices home insurance law. Firms such as Virani Law can help you with home insurance claims.
The advantage of hiring a lawyer over a public insurance adjuster is that the lawyer can help you through all stages of a dispute up to and including filing a lawsuit. A lawyer with a knowledge of home insurance can both negotiate a better offer informally and take a dispute to mediation or even court if necessary. You can work with the same professional through the whole process, and you do not need to bring a lawyer up-to-speed at the end of a claim if you have to resort to litigation.
You need to understand your policy and your rights, including reimbursement for the costs of displacement and replacing personal property. Talk to a home insurance lawyer about getting help throughout the insurance claim process. They can help level the field between you and the insurance company’s insurance adjusters.