Wildfires, whether natural or caused by humans, occur almost yearly, causing property damage, injuries, and even death. Although everyone hopes never to be in the way of a raging fire, you should stay prepared. If you live in a fire-prone area, you should ensure your homeowner’s insurance covers fire and smoke damage.
Once a wildfire occurs, you should file an insurance claim for your damaged property. Fire damage includes your home and belongings, but you can only file a claim if the fire reaches your building. If your property has soot, smoke, or ash damage, you must file a claim to receive compensation for restoration.
Calculating the damage caused by the wildfire can be challenging, and your insurance company will, by default, give you a low offer. However, only accept the insurance settlement once you’ve discussed your losses and situation with your lawyer. If you’re in the Golden State area, consider enlisting a California wildfire attorney who knows the state laws there. Your documentation of the wildfire damage is vital in getting your claim, and here’s how you should file your damage claim:
- Document The Property Damage
After the fire department deems your area safe to return, list everything the fire damaged. Your insurance adjuster can give a more accurate estimate if you document everything as much as possible. Take photos and videos that make up compelling evidence to avoid arguments for fraud. The following are some of the damages you can document:
- Lawn damage
- Personal property like art, appliance, and furniture
- Plumbing problems due to clogs
- HVAC damage
- Hot tub and pool damage
- Solar panels
Once you complete your documentation, ensure you fill out a proof of loss form. This is the formal declaration you make for fire and smoke damage on your property.
As you clean the debris, don’t throw anything away. Store all the ruined items so you can use them to prove the severity of the wildfire damage. Such evidence strengthens your claim and improves your chances for compensation.
- Review Your Insurance Policy
Before filing the claim, review your wildfire insurance policy first. This allows you to know what your policy covers and if the coverage has a limit. Usually, minimum insurance covers the exact value you need to repair or rebuild your home. A section of it can protect your clothing, electronics, furniture, and other personal items.
Your wildfire insurance should pay for related expenses under the loss of use policy. If your home becomes inhabitable, the plan can offer you money to cover your living expenses. Also, the cover pays for the hotel and transportation you use during this time. But there’s a limit to your loss of use coverage.
Reviewing the plan lets you know how much money you should expect. Furthermore, you get to know the damages you can list in your claim.
- Contact The Insurance Company
Once you’re done with the documentation, you should contact your insurer as soon as possible. Inform them of the wildfire damage on your property. They will then be able to calculate the loss you sustained.
They’ll send a representative to your location to do an assessment. The representative will ask you questions like when you bought some of your damaged items and how much the expected repair costs will be. Answer them correctly, and you can get repair estimates from a repair company.
Beware that some insurance providers have time limits on filing claims. They can fail to reimburse you if you take too long to contact them. Therefore, be quick to inform them of the damage.
- Find A Wildfire Attorney
Wildfire claims can be very complex. It gets more complicated when your insurer tries to devalue your claim. They could argue the actual damage is less than your documentation describes, and you may receive a low offer in return.
A wildfire attorney is crucial because they can help you deal with your insurer. They can speak with the wildfire insurance company and negotiate a fair settlement. Also, the attorney knows how to collect evidence that’ll convince the insurance company to give you a better deal.
- Corporate With Your Adjuster
Ensure you give the representative full access to your property so they can assess the damages. Be bold in showing them the areas you’ve already identified. After the inspection, the representative submits a report that advises the insurance company on covering the damage to your property. Therefore, let them check everything so they can describe the damage adequately, and you can get a fair deal.
A wildfire insurance claim is an excellent way to get back on your feet after an inferno. However, you must file your damage claim correctly and precisely to get the most compensation. Also, ensure you have a reliable attorney to help fast-track your claim and get a favorable agreement.