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Must Know Fire Insurance Claims Tips

Posted by Joe Brennan | Posted in Fire Insurance Claims, Homeowners Insurance, Insurance Claims Help, Insurance Dispute | Posted on 03-16-2010


A house catching fire can be a life changing event that no homeowner should ever have to endure. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, it’s very important to advise your insurance company of the fire as soon as possible. Here are five critical steps you should know and take after suffering fire insurance claims.

1: Know Your Policy and You’re Coverage Limit:

Most large fires consume household items. This usually means that your policy has burned or is water damaged beyond reading. It’s important to obtain a new copy of your policy and declarations page as soon as possible. This can be obtained by visiting your agent’s office or asking the adjuster that visits your property. Check your policy for the amount of coverage limits for the main categories of your policy.

Many, many homes are grossly underinsured. If you are one of the unfortunate who find out too late, you still must be prepared to fight. One would think – “If I’m underinsured then they will just write me a check for policy limits.” Shockingly it doesn’t work that way. Most insurance companies will still lowball or undervalue your property in an effort to pay less than what is actually owed on most fire insurance claims.

2: Get Everything In Writing

It’s important to have everything documented. Have the contractors you obtain estimates from to provide them all in writing. Having detailed quotes and estimates of the true cost of replacing or repairing your home from professionals will go a long way in proving the amount of loss you have suffered from the fire.

If you are having clothes cleaned at the dry cleaner, get an estimate of the complete and full costs, including tax, shipping, etc. Generate a list with descriptions of damaged items, like furniture, bath and kitchen goods, clothes, toys, household items, etc. Ask each family member to create a list of their items that have been damaged as well. Working together makes this task easier. Fewer items will be left off the list as well.

If you can’t recall the cost for all of your items, you can consult with your Credit Card Company and retailers where you purchased items to assist you with purchases and help calculate the true replacement costs of items. It’s a good idea to walk the isles of stores where you shop often. This helps jog your memory of items you had prior to the fire.

3: Document, Document, Document

Most likely your policy will cover “Additional Living Expenses.” If you have to pay for living arrangements while you are displaced, it’s very important to keep the receipts for lodging, meals, travel, and other purchases. Keep such docs from the time of the fire until your building or home is replaced. Don’t just mail all your receipts to the insurance company. You must keep copies for your records incase they become lost in the mail.

Document and retain detailed notes of all correspondence and conversations with all insurance company representatives. Get yourself a note book and pocket folder to keep organized. Every time you speak with someone about your claim; record the persons name, phone numbers and extensions, their job title, and any supervisor’s names. This is crucial when people begin to contradict themselves.

4: Don’t Sign Anything

Many insurance companies will ask you to sign a release before they will send you any money for your fire insurance claims. You are not required to sign a release in order to collect any undisputed funds. The insurance company is required to send you the amount of money they believe it will take to put you back in the condition you were prior to the loss… even if you disagree with that amount. If your insurance company asks you to sign a release, find out their reason for requesting your authorization. Always be extra cautious about signing away your rights.

5: It’s YOUR Choice and Decision

It’s your property, it’s your policy, and it’s your money. You are in control! You do not have to accept or allow the insurance company’s contractor to do your repairs. You do not have to accept the insurance company’s estimate. Beware and protect yourself from lowball estimates from the insurance friendly contractors.

You need to obtain your own professionals and estimates of repairs. It’s important to compare your contractor’s estimates against what the insurance company has provided. If you feel like you are not being treated fairly or the insurance company is trying to save money at your expense, then follow the “Appraisal Clause,” in your policy. (See more information on how to use the Insurance Appraisal Clause in the event you disagree with insurance company.)

You must educate and protect yourself. You may be unpleasantly surprised to find out that you’re NOT “in good hands,” there is no one “on your side,” and they are NOT there “like a good neighbor.”

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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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