We keep fresh batteries in our smoke alarms, we make emergency plans with our families, we put rescue stickers for kids and pets on the windows for firefighters to see.
But have you thought about what would happen after a fire? Even a small fire is likely to cause some damage, and you’ll want to file an insurance claim.
Here are some things you should know about that process.
- Keep a list of everything you’ve lost
This can take some time, and it’s something that could make an already emotional situation even more stressful. But it’s important to note everything that was lost in the fire, and to avoid throwing anything away. It will be easier to prove that things were lost – no matter how ruined they were by smoke, fire or water – if you keep them around.
- File your claim right away
Your insurance policy requires you to file a claim as soon as possible, so don’t wait to notify your insurer about the fire. They’ll want you to file a “proof of loss claim” listing the items you’ve lost and their value.
Typically, these forms should note:
- The date of the loss
- The type of loss/damage
- Location of the damage
- Other people involved
- Condition of the property
- A description of the damaged contents
- Whether temporary repairs are needed
- A police report.
This is the start of a long, complicated process, so be sure to keep track of all communication with the insurance company. Get receipts from the post office. Take notes of every meeting and phone call. Having a detailed record of the process lessens the chance of your insurance company putting you in a “your word against theirs” situation.
- Keep your property secure
Unless your home is a total loss, the insurance company will expect you to take steps to keep the property secure to protect against further damage. Those steps can include:
- Putting a fence around or boarding up the property to keep out looters or trespassers.
- Moving property that is in risk of further damage.
- Covering holes in the walls and roof to protect from rain/snow.
- Making sure any embers are extinguished.
Your insurance company may refer to this as “mitigating damage.”
- Track your living expenses
Your insurance policy will reimburse you for living expenses incurred when you’re displaced from your home: hotel stays, restaurant meals, laundry, extra gas. If you’ve decided to stay with a friend or relative after the fire, have them list the cost of your stay with them. If your insurer wants to negotiate with you on this point, remind them that it’s cheaper than a hotel.
- Think about hiring a public adjuster
Figuring out what your policy covers – and what it doesn’t – can be a thorny process, especially when dealing with everything else that arises after a catastrophic event such as a fire.
That’s where a public adjuster – like the experts at Interstate Public Adjusters – has the unique skills to help you jump the hurdles insurance companies can put in the path to your claim.
We realize some people avoid working with a public adjuster because of the cost. You pay an adjuster a percentage of what the insurance company pays you. But this can be worth it if an adjuster gets you more than you would have received.
With luck, you’ll never have a reason to call us. But if your home does suffer a fire, know that we can help you recover.