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Fire Damage and Dealing With Incompetent Insurance Company Adjusters

Posted by Joe Brennan | Posted in Fire Insurance Claims, Homeowners Insurance, Independent Appraiser, Insurance Claims Help, Insurance Dispute | Posted on 03-20-2010


The majority of policyholders who have ever been a victim of a fire or has suffered damages to their property (home, business, etc.) from fire damage claims will make costly mistakes during and after the claim has been settled. Unfortunately there always seems to be one grossly expensive mistake that most all policyholders make. It’s so simple that it’s hard to believe that people don’t even realize they have done it. Can you even imagine that many policyholder’s who has suffered a fire will rely solely on the insurance company adjuster’s opinion? They allow their adjuster to inspect their property, evaluate and process the claim, and create an estimate for the entire fire insurance claim… Without Any Questions.

Imagine people like doctors, lawyers, accountants, willfully accepting the insurance adjuster’s own opinion without obtaining any comparisons, numbers from other contractors, or consulting a fire damage claim professional. This is, without-a-doubt, the most costly mistake people will ever make in their entire life.

As if it’s not bad enough that your property was destroyed by fire damage, to then rely on someone else – who is not really there for you – to visit the property, inspect the damages, generate PROPER value, and then completely trust that they have your best interest in mind… Is Simply I N S A N E !

Yet, policyholders allow this to happen all across the country, day-in and day-out. For most people it’s human nature to count their “change” at the grocery store or diligently review their dinner bill to be sure the waiter didn’t charge them for items they did not order. We’ve all done it. We go out of our way to count and keep track of our chump change. Yet, when it comes to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars from a fire insurance claim, we rely on the insurance company without question.

No one knows your property like you do. There is much to do to properly prepare and configure fire damage that in most instances, items are forgotten or missed during the process. Especially if it’s done by someone at your insurance company. They don’t know about your building, your property, or your contents (furniture, clothing, etc.) like you do. How could they possibly be as accurate as you? Furthermore, just because an insurance company adjuster visits your property for an inspection does not mean they are a professional contractor, builder, or certified in fire and water damage restoration.

During the review of thousands of both closed and open claims, we find that both insurance companies and policyholders unknowingly and often miss hidden damages. The truth is – that in almost all instances; it’s a good idea to have a qualified professional review all fire damage claims. One should seek a fire insurance claims appraiser, a fire insurance claim consultant, or a fire consulting firm.

Too often policyholders are under the impression that if they deposit a check received from the insurance company into their bank account – the claim is settled and closed. This could not be any further from the truth. The fact are; that in most states policyholders have 3-years to make claims from the time the damages occurred. Claimants can even ADD items to an existing claim. So, the review of claims to be sure you have been fully compensated can occur, during the process of an existing claim or even after the claim has been closed and settled. More money from your claim is also obtainable even if your property or building has been removed, torn down, or demolished.

It’s true, even if claims have been settled and all insurance proceeds have been deposited, or the building has been torn down and removed, policyholders can recover more insurance proceeds if the damages were missed or not addressed properly. In most cases, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of more dollars are recovered… AFTER the insurance company has closed the claim. Even policyholders that believe they have received a fair settlement… they usually have not.

However, it’s up to the policyholder to do their part to protect themselves. Here are a few tips to assist in the review of your fire insurance claim. There are tips if you are in the middle of your claim – as well as tips if your claim has closed some time ago.

1. During Claim Process – Document Your Building Damage: Take the time to inspect and document the damages yourself. Take photos of all damaged rooms in your building. Take overviews of the room and then take some close-up photos of the damaged ceilings, walls, floors, windows, doors, etc. of that room as well. Work your way around the building to the left (clock wise). Before entering the next room, closet, or hall – take an overview. This will be an easy way to organize which photos belong to which rooms. An example is; Overview of living room, then from top to bottom, photos of ceiling, walls, windows, doors, then the floor. Then the first photo of the next room is an overview, and so on. (No pictures or close-ups of contents yet, just the rooms.)

1. Closed or Settled Claims – Obtain Documentation Of The Building: Insurance adjusters visit the property to gather measurements and photos of the damage. If you have no photographs yourself, or a limited amount of pics – request that the insurance company send you all photographs that were taken by the adjuster. You should also request the complete estimate and diagram/sketch they used to arrive at the square footage and repair numbers. This type of documentation will be critical for you to have, as well as if the need arises for the fire insurance claim appraiser you choose.

2. During Claim Process – Document Your Contents Damage: Next is to visit each room and closet once again to inventory your contents. Take an overview photo of each piece of furniture, pair of shoes, shirts, pants, ect. Then a close-up photo of any damage on that item. Write each item down on a Contents Inventory Form. ( Download one by visiting ) Similar to the way you have photographed and organized your building damage photos, you should do the same with your contents. Example; Take overview photo of living room, then work your way around the room to the left (clockwise). Photograph and list all the items on each wall until you get back to the doorway you began at. This way items will not be missed or forgotten. Once the living room inventory has been completed, move to the next room and start by taking an overview photo of the room. this helps organize what room the contents were located. List the name of the room at he top of each page of your inventory list. Now the photos and the list are both organized in sequence with each other.

2. Closed Or Settled Claims – Obtain Contents Damage Documents: If the adjuster has done their job properly they have taken photos of the contents during the inspection as well. If you have minimal or no photos of your contents you should request all those taken by the adjuster. You also want to request a copy of the complete contents inventory they had written to arrive at your contents settlement numbers. This type of documentation will also be useful for the fire insurance claim consultants you may choose.

3. During Claim Process – Review Of Your Policy: Fire claim victims should take the time to and review their insurance policy. Most policyholders don’t even know basic information, like; How much building coverage do they carry? How much contents (furniture, clothing, etc.) coverage? How much they have to stay in a hotel, to rent a home or furniture? Surprisingly enough, many policyholders have no idea about any of this. In most cases this documentation has been burned in the fire. In such cases; policyholders can visit with their agent and request a “certified true copy” of their full policy. It’s also recommended to ask the agent to explain how much coverage you hold on your property.

3. Closed Or Settled Claims – Obtain Copy Of Policy: Even if your claim was closed years ago and you have a different insurance company, you can request a certified true copy of the “FULL” insurance policy, with Declarations page, at the time the fire occurred. As well, this type of documentation will be useful when you consult with a fire insurance claim appraiser.

4. During Claim Process – Consult With A Professional: The insurance companies have their adjuster visit your property, inspect your damages, and complete estimates on the amount of damage you have incurred. It’s very important you have the same exact process completed yourself. How does a policyholder know the insurance company adjuster has done their job correctly? Should you be willing to give up tens of thousands of dollars by not taking steps to be sure? The insurance adjuster should explain all the fire insurance claim coverage’s that is available to you, however, such information is rarely disclosed. Sometimes it is even done on purpose, and on other occasions it’s also done on purpose (Did you read that? Forgetting to advise you of certain coverage’s is usually withheld until you ask. More often than not; it’s done on purpose.) It is your belongings, it is your money, and it is your policy. You must educate yourself to ensure you’re being fully compensated for the fire damages. You should consider hiring a fire insurance claim professional. Someone who can look out for you and review the insurance company’s value of your loss. You need to be in-the-know by obtaining your own “real-world” costs and estimates to repair or replace your property.

4. Closed Or Settled Claims – Consult A Fire Professional: Have you obtained a fair settlement for your fire insurance claim? How can you be sure unless you ask someone who knows for sure? If you are not 100% sure if you have received fair settlement from the insurance company, you most definitely owe it to yourself to investigate. If you have collected and reviewed all the documents as outlined earlier; you will have sufficient documentation to consult the opinion of a professional. A quick review of your claim is all a fire insurance claim consultant needs to advise you where you stand. To leave yourself in the dark, with a notion of forfeiting tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table – does not make much sense. A minimal fee to gain an understanding of where you stand is a tiny price to pay. Compare that to a large lump of insurance proceeds that you were not aware existed.

(Free Consultation: We will review your present or closed fire damage claim  file at no cost. Free Consultation. Call Today 919-669-9111 or Contact Us )

The reasons are clear and simple. The fact is this, the adjusters work directly for the insurance company, where the fire damage appraiser or consultant works directly for you. You already made the right choice by making sure you were properly insured. It is now up to you to continue with the next steps. That is to research that you have properly compensated for the policy you paid for.

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(C) Joe Brennan is President and owner/operator of Insurance Claims Group, Inc., a national independent adjusting, appraisal, and umpiring firm. We will answer your claim questions FREE as part of our FREE Insurance Advice and Insurance Claim Consulting Services.

Insurance Claims Group, Inc.
Joe Brennan
Ph: 919-669-9111
Fx: 919-573-9595

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