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Fire Insurance Claims – Don’t Get Burned By Your Adjuster

Posted by Joe Brennan | Posted in Fire Insurance Claims, Homeowners Insurance, Independent Appraiser, Insurance Advice, Insurance Claims Help, Insurance Dispute | Posted on 02-25-2010


fire-claim-adjusters-blindMost policyholders who have suffered damages to their property (home, business, etc.) from a fire insurance claim usually makes costly mistakes during and after the claim settlement. However, there is always one extremely expensive mistake that almost all policyholders make over and over again. What’s worse is that they do it without even knowing it. The most costly mistake is – Most policyholders only rely on the insurance company’s adjuster to inspect, process, and estimate the complete fire insurance claim without any questions. They accept the insurance adjuster’s complete evaluation without any comparisons, estimates from their own contractors, or a review by a fire insurance claim professional. This will be the most costly mistake you would ever make in your entire lifetime.

It’s bad enough to have your property destroyed by fire, but relying on someone else to visit your property, inspect it, provide a proper value, and then trust that they got it all correct… 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.

There isn’t anyone who knows your property like you do. With all there is to do in properly preparing and calculating fire insurance claim damage, it’s no wonder that in most cases, items can be forgotten or missed during the process. This couldn’t be more true if the process is done by someone from the insurance company. They have no knowledge about your building, its finishes (carpet, wallpaper), or your contents (furniture, clothing, etc.) like you. Could they possibly be more accurate than you? Furthermore, just because an adjuster works for an insurance company, inspects your property, and knows how to measure rooms, in no way means they are a qualified contractor, builder, or is certified to evaluate fire and water damage repairs.

With the review of thousands of closed claims, we have found that in most cases, both insurance companies and policyholders unknowingly miss damages that are hidden from the naked eye. In almost all instances; it is a good idea to have a professional review your fire damage claim. Preferably a fire insurance claims appraiser, consultant, or fire consulting firm.

Unknowingly policyholders often assume that when their insurance company sends them money and they deposit the funds in their bank account that the claim is closed. This is not true at all. The fact is; in most states the policyholder has up to 3-years to submit a claim and even the same time to ADD undiscovered damages to an existing claim. So, the answer is yes, you can have a professional review your claim to see if you have been properly compensated, during the claims process or even years after the claim has been closed. Policyholders can also obtain more insurance proceeds from claims – even if the building has been torn down, demolished, and/or removed.

Yes, even when a claim has been closed and the policyholder has deposited the checks, or the home or building has been torn down, demolished, and removed, they can still receive more insurance proceeds from damages that were not assessed properly. In many of the cases, it’s been found that tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of more dollars should have been paid. Even when a person is under the impression that they have received a fair fire claim settlement… The Fact Is – They Usually Have Not.

It’s up to YOU, the policyholder, to do your part to protect yourself. Here are tips to help individuals with fire insurance claims. There are helpful tips for policyholders in the middle of their claim – as well as help for those with claims that are closed.

1. Existing Claim –

1. Document Building Damage: Take time to inspect, photograph, and document the fire damages yourself. Take photos of all rooms in the building. Take overview photos of the room as well as close-up photos of the ceilings, walls, floors, windows, doors, etc. of each room as well. Work around the building to the left (clock wise). Then, before entering the next room – take an overview photo. This will be the easiest way to organize the photos for each room. Here’s an example; Take overview photo of the kitchen, then work your photos from the ceiling to the floor. Take overview photo of ceiling, then zoom in on photos of the ceiling. Continue with overview photos of each wall, then close-up photos of damages on walls. Continue this process with windows, doors, and finally the floor. When you enter the next rom, hall or closet, the first photo is an overview, and so on. (Do not take any photos or close-ups of any furniture or clothing yet, just the rooms.)

1. Closed Claim –

1. Obtain Documents For Building: Your insurance adjuster had taken photos of the property during their inspection(s). If you do not have any photos yourself, or if you only have minimal photos – you should request a copy of all photos that were taken by the insurance adjuster. You will want to also request the copy of the adjusters scope. The scope will be the diagram/sketch and measurements they used to calculate the square feet of each room of the building. Request the complete line-item, detailed estimate they wrote to arrive at the settlement numbers of your claim. These documents will be useful to you and for any fire insurance claim consultant you may choose.

2. Existing Claim –

2. Document Contents Damage: You will now want to visit each room and closet once again. This time you will be collecting an inventory of your contents. In the same manner you did with the rooms; you should take an overview picture of each piece of furniture, each pair of shoes, each shirt, pants, ect. After the overviews you then take a close-up picture of any damages to that item. (Like smoke or water stains, etc.) Write each individual item down on a Contents Inventory Form. ( Request one by visiting ) The manner in which you take your photos will also help organize them. For Example; Take the overview picture of the room you are about to enter. In this example; let’s say the living room. Your should then continue your way around the room to the left (clockwise). Capture pictures and list each item on each wall until you get back to where you began. It’s important not to bounce around the room. This ensures that items will not be forgotten or missed. When the living room inventory has been pictured, listed, and completed, move into the next room. Again, start with an overview picture of that new room. This helps organize the contents by what room they were in. Be sure to list the name of the room on each page of the inventory list. Now the pictures and the lists are both sequenced and organized with each other.

2. Closed Claim –

2. Obtain Documents Of Your Contents Damage: The insurance adjuster has taken photos of your contents during their inspection as well. If you have no photos yourself, or minimal photos – then request all photos taken by the adjuster of your contents. You should also request the complete detailed contents inventory they have written to arrive at their numbers. This documentation will be useful for the fire insurance claim consultant you choose.

3. Existing Claim –

3. Review Your Policy: Fire victims must take the time to review their insurance policy. You must know the basics; How much coverage do you have on your building? How much coverage do you have for your contents (furniture, clothing, etc.)? How much coverage do you have to stay in a hotel or to rent a home or furniture? Surprisingly, many people don’t know this. In many cases the policy has been damaged in the fire. If this is the case; visit your agent and ask for a certified copy of your full policy. Ask your agent to help explain how much coverage you have.

3. Closed Claim –

3. Obtain Copy Of Your Policy: Contact your insurance company and request a certified copy of your “FULL” insurance policy, including the Declarations page. This documentation will be useful for the fire insurance claim consultant you choose.

4. Existing Claim –

4. Consult A Professional: The insurance company will have an adjuster visit the property, inspect the damages, and complete an estimate on the amount of loss. It is important that you have the same process completed for yourself. How do you know the insurance adjuster is doing their job correctly? Are you willing to forfeit tens of thousands of dollars by not taking the time to make sure? The insurance company is supposed to explain all the fire insurance claim coverage that is available to the policyholder, however, this is rarely done. Sometimes it’s done on purpose, and other times it’s also done on purpose (Did you catch that? This is done on purpose more often than not.) It’s your property, it’s your policy, and it’s your money. Educate yourself to be sure you are being fully compensated for your loss. Hire a fire insurance claim professional to review the insurance company’s evaluation. Obtain your own “real-world” prices and costs to replace your property.

4. Closed Claim –

4. 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 insurance claim files at no cost. Free Consultation. Call Today 919-669-9111 or visit )

The reasons are clear and simple. The facts are this, the adjusters work directly for the insurance company, where the fire claims 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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