The increasing threat of fires makes familiarising yourself with how to file fire insurance claims more important than ever. Losing your home and personal belongings to a fire is already a devastating experience. Since these types of claims are inherently complex most home owners and business owners – to their own detriments – blindly follow the lead of the insurance company’s claim adjuster. If your property has sustained smoke and fire damage then you must be proactive if you want a fast and accurate fire settlement. Here are some tips to follow when filing fire insurance claims:
Ask for an Advance Against Your Fire Insurance Claim
If you were forced to evacuate due to the dangerous conditions, you may not have grabbed essentials like toiletries or clothes. Some of these things may have even been completely lost in the fire. Don’t panic. You could be entitled to an advance against your fire insurance claim settlement. Most insurance companies will grant this request and the advanced amount will be deducted from the final claim settlement. Take care of your needs, but don’t go overboard. Be practical with what you buy because the insurance company will refuse to reimburse you for frivolous things.
Remain in Control of Your Personal Property & Mitigate Damage
It’s imperative you remain in control of your personal property until there is a proactive plan in place for your entire fire insurance claim. Relinquishing your personal property to a restoration company without first knowing all of your rights and options WILL waste thousands of your settlement Rands. Insurance proceeds spent on cleaning smoke and fire damaged property are deducted from the total claim, even if the attempts are unsatisfactory. However, where only one section of your home is damaged, be sure to take proactive measures in preventing further damage.
Ways to mitigate damages include:
- Covering holes in the walls and roof to protect from the elements
- Boarding up or building a fence to prevent looters
- Smoldering all embers
- Moving property that’s at risk of further damage
Make a list of everything you’ve lost and don’t throw anything away
To ensure you are compensated for every item that was damaged by smoke and fire, start compiling a list of everything you’ve lost. While this sounds like a large undertaking, it is essential since this portion of fire insurance claims usually make or break final settlement amounts. Go room by room and write down every item, age, description and approximate price. Don’t overwhelm yourself if you can’t remember the details as you can go back at a later date to fill in missing information. Be sure not to throw anything away. It’ll be easier to prove that you really lost the items on your list if you hold on to them for the insurance adjuster to see the damage. If you throw them away, the insurance company may refuse to compensate you.
File your claim right away and press the insurance company to act ASAP
Insurance policies require policyholders to file their fire insurance claims as soon as possible, so call your insurance agent immediately to get the process started. The insurance company will require you to submit a “proof of loss” claim, which is where you list all of the items you lost, including their value. Dealing with the insurance company is a very convoluted process involving countless calls, emails, letters, and documents. Remember to always keep original documents of everything. If your insurance company wants proof of a document, make them a copy but keep the original. Since you’re acting promptly to fulfill your responsibilities of the policy, your insurance company should also be prompt in acting on your fire insurance claim. In fact, the law requires insurance companies to handle claims in a timely manner.
Continue Paying Your Insurance Premiums
Many people make the error of discontinuing their insurance premiums once they’ve filed fire insurance claims. This is a huge mistake. The typical homeowner insurance policy and business policy includes liability coverage. This coverage will offer protection against accidents or other types of damages that could occur at the loss site on a different date of loss. Also, remember to give your insurance agent the address of where you’re staying and have that added to your liability coverage. To reduce your premiums, you can also ask that the section of the policy that covers the structure of your home be cut back, in the case that your home was a total loss. Just be sure to adjust this after your new home is built.
Don’t worry about losing your insurance coverage.
Too familiar with automobile insurance companies raising premiums or completely dropping drivers, many people fear that filing fire insurance claims will cause their homeowners’ insurance company to do the same. This is not the case. As long as you file only legitimate claims after real disasters, you’re not a “habitual claimant,” and there’s no evidence of fraud on your part, your premium will not increase and you will not lose your coverage.
Report Unethical Behavior
An insurance company cannot cancel or “drop” a claimant for any reason other than fraud or material misrepresentation. That means you cannot lose coverage for filing a fire insurance claim or for hiring a public adjuster to assist you. Be wary if the claim adjuster from your insurance company threatens your claim, discourages you from seeking help from a public adjuster or pressures you into signing off on a settlement. Report any unethical behavior to a superior or to the relevant authorities.