Fire Insurance Claim
AA Florida Public Adjusting Agency specializes in handling Fire Claims
A Fire insurance claim is one of the hardest claims the homeowner may encounter. You will be asked to provide a statement concerning the facts surrounding your loss. Both the Fire Marshall and the insurance adjuster may want a verbal and/or written statement. Each one of these people will gather information about your fire claim. Such as: Where were you at the time of the fire? Were you in the house on the day the fire started? Do you know how it started? How are you doing financial? Are you behind on any payments? Did you start the fire? Do not be offended by either these people; they are only doing their job. If you have done nothing wrong, you will have a whole lot less to worry about. Remember be truthful.
However, there are a few bumps in the road ahead. You may need the assistance of a public adjuster. Someone will have to meet with the insurance adjuster at the loss and voice an opinion on the extent of the loss. The personal property portion of the fire insurance claim is your responsibility, and a detailed estimate should be begun immediately. An experience public adjuster knows how to get this portion of your claim started.
Fire is a destructive and dangerous force. According to the Federal Goverrnment, "each year more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in home fires in the United States with direct property loss due to home fires estimated at $7.3 billion annually." Even when there is no loss of life, the destruction of sentimental, irreplaceable treasures can result in emotional devastation. This is compounded by physical displacement from the home which often leaves the family feeling vulnerable. And it is exactly during this crisis that the victim must file a claim with their insurance company. It is imparative that you as the insured know your Coverage, mitigate your damages, and document your loss.
Please see a sample of Duties After Loss. The wording found in this sample policy may be different from the wording found in your policy. Failure to comply with the wording in your policy could result in your entire claim being denied.
While not all of the following suggestions may be applicable to your loss, they may give you something new to consider. Each loss is different and nothing said or suggested on this webiste should be relied upon without first speaking with AA Florida Public Adjusting Agency, LLC.
1. Call your insurance company and report the claim.
Most policies require you report your claim immediately. You need to do this as soon as possible but don't endanger yourself or others.
2. Read the advice from these websites.
It is important that you understand what your insurance policy provides. If you have a replacement cost policy, you are entitled to receive compensation to replace damaged items with new like-kind and quality property. You don't have to accept second best. When you conclulde your claim, you should be compensated for all necessary expenses you incurred less the amount of your deductible. Read the goverernment's advice about returning to normal after a a fire.
United States Fire Administration – After the Fire! Returning to Normal. There is literature available both in English and Spanish
FEMA Ready.gov - Recovering from a Fire
Red Cross – Picking up the Pieces
After the Fire is Out – Cleaning Household Textiles and Clothing
3. Be selective Concerning whom you hire.
You will be swamped with contractors and public adjusters who want to assist you with your loss. If you hire a contractor to board up the building, confirm this cost in writing before he starts. If you sign a contract, read the fine print. Do not sign a contract with anyone to repair your home unless you fully understand your policy, know for sure that your mortgage company will be releasing the insurance settlement, and believe the contractor you are considering is reputable. Not all public adjusters have equal abilities. Ask him if he writes his own estimates.
4. Know your policy's limits.
How much are you insured for? It makes no sense to pay a contractor to remove construction debris from the building by hand, if the building will have to be demolished. The same is true for your personal property. Find out if your policy includes Additional Living Expenses and what the limits are. You may need to give me a call concerning this subject. Just a small detail can change the payment out come.
5. Document your claim by pictures.
Take pictures of all elevations. Giving special attention to the damage on the siding, soffit, fascia, windows, doors, and fixtures. Picture any mortar joints that are now cracked. If it is safe, take pictures of the roof. Take detailed pictures of the roofing material directly over the fire as opposed to a detailed pictures of the roofing material far removed from the area that was not exposed to extreme heat. Your pictures should demonstrate why you consider this material damaged. Take pictures of each room. Take pictures in a systematic and logical fashion. Such as: An overall picture of the room and then a general picture of each wall. An overall picture of the floor and then of the ceiling. Now- take another picture of one of the walls and close up pictures of the damage on that one wall. Now- move to the next wall and do the same thing. Follow this procedure with all walls, floors, and ceiling. Follow this same procedure in each room. If your first wall picture is on the right as you enter the room, do it this same way in all the rooms. Taking pictures in this manner, will make it easy to identify damage in each room both by you and later by someone like me. If your rooms are really indistinguishable, print out the name of the room on a piece of paper and position it next to the initial overview picture for the room. Wear hard sole shoes and watch where you walk. After you have taken pictures of damage to the building, start taking pictures of personal property. I can't stress enough what you do not know about policy coverage can can cost you money.
6. Document your claim with a written log.
When you speak with your insurance company, agent, or a contractor write it down. Record the time, with whom you spoke, and a brief synopsis of what you talked about. Note all attempted phone calls and jot down a summary of any message you left. If you did not leave message, make a note of that fact. I like using my cell phone and referencing the monthly call log. When you perform claim related tasks, write it down. Cleaning up. Hauling off debris. Record the exact hours for the time you spend mitigating your loss. Keep track the of days you drive from your temporary housing to the loss location.
7. Board up the building or have someone qualified to perform this task. This is important for a number of reasons.
Your policy requires you to mitigate the loss and your insurance company expects you to comply with your policy. Boarding up is usually considered a mitigation requirement. Boarding up will reduce liability risk. Neighbors love to walk in the house and see the damage. The last thing you want is for someone to be hurt or killed on your property. Some insurance companies might deny liability coverage, if you do not take this necessary precaution. This will also help to prevent future theft. After a fire, some of the general public believe that you do not want any of the items left in the house. After a few months, even more people believe your property is fair game. Post a Keep Out sign. If any of your personal property items are salvageable, put them in storage. If your AC condensing unit is undamaged, it might be wise to secure it.
8. Recorded Statement
Should you give a recorded statement to the insurance company? Some lawyers say no and others consider it a part of your duty to cooperate. Some of the newer policies are requiring that you give a recorded statement; thus, you may have no choice but to comply. I recommend the following to my client's: Always tell the truth. Do not speculate about how the fire started. If you do not know how the fire started, say I do not know. Always request a written copy of your recorded statement. And again, always tell the truth.