In the United States, local fire departments responded to over 1.3 million fires in 2021. That same year, fires caused more than $15 billion in property damage. To ensure compensation in the event of a house fire, it’s important to file a fire insurance claim promptly.
But house fires can be traumatic. In the overwhelm of things, it’s easy to forget the need to initiate the fire insurance claim process. To help simplify things, we’ve outlined the steps you need to follow to receive financial compensation from your insurance company below.
1. File Your Home Insurance Claim ASAP
After you’re safe and the fire is out, contact your home insurance agent. Filing promptly allows you to receive financial reimbursement and recover from the incident sooner. If the fire impacted other homes, it’s important to act fast. Waiting might put you at the bottom of a long list of claims on your insurance adjuster’s plate.
Information your insurance claim should include:
- Type of damage incurred
- Date of incident
- Description of damages
- Necessary temporary repairs
- A police report
After processing your fire damage claim, an insurance adjuster will come to assess the damage and determine how much compensation you qualify for.
2. Document Damages
Take photos and document damaged or destroyed personal belongings so your insurance company knows how to compensate you. When in doubt whether you should record something or not — write it down.
A three-ring binder could come in handy to track your damages and correspondence with your insurance company. Ideally, you would have created a home inventory before this event occurred.
If you don’t have an inventory, here are some things you can do to prove what you’ve lost with your insurance company:
- Ask friends and family for photos and videos taken at your home
- Look up a list of common items found in a home to help you remember what you’ve lost
- Take a look at your own phone and social media accounts for photos of your living space
- Check your email for receipts of purchased goods lost in the fire
The more thorough you are with your documentation, the more likely you are to get a fair insurance claim.
3. Secure Your House
It’s important to secure your home from weather damage, pests and people. Board up holes in your home, broken windows and cover holes in the roof with a tarp. If you experienced a small fire caused by a cooking accident, you may be able to keep living in your home.
However, if your whole house burns down, you may need to find a temporary place to reside.
Just be sure to keep receipts of any temporary repairs you make. This way you can let your insurance company know and reimburse you.
4. Connect With Your Adjuster
Your insurance company will assign you an insurance adjuster as your main point of contact. It’s good to be home when they arrive to assess damages. Walk them through your home and point out everything damaged or lost.
Remember that your adjuster represents your insurance company, so you’ll need to be your own advocate. Be assertive, but not aggressive. Politely stand your ground about what you’ve lost and what reimbursements you hope to receive.
When dealing with an insurance adjuster keep the following tips in mind:
- Be wary of quick settlements: Your insurance adjuster may try to pressure you into settling right after the fire before you understand the full value of your claim. Don’t make a decision on a final settlement until you are sure it’s worth it.
- Be honest but not apologetic: As you talk with your adjuster, it could be tempting to unjustly blame yourself for the fire damage. Be careful with your words, because a misinterpretation of the situation could reduce your claim.
- Explain hidden damages: Some damages might not be immediately noticeable. Point them out to your adjuster.
- Be polite: Make sure to treat your adjuster with respect and kindness.
After walking them through your damages, ask your insurance adjuster what next steps look like.
5. Understand Your Coverage
The better you understand the type of homeowners insurance policy you have, the easier it will be to navigate the fire insurance claim process.
Types of home insurance includes:
- Coverage A (Dwelling coverage): This will cover any damage to your home.
- Coverage B (Other structures): This outlines how much you’ll receive for damages to structures other than your home, such as detached garages, fences, sheds and carports.
- Coverage C (Personal belongings): This covers damaged and destroyed personal properties such as clothes, furniture and more.
- Coverage D (additional living expenses): If your home is uninhabitable, this coverage will help you pay for temporary living expenses.
Understanding these types of insurance detailed in your policy will help you create a financial plan moving forward.
6. Track Your Living Expenses
If you have to find a new place to live, keep a detailed record of your expenses. There’s a good chance your policy will cover some of the additional costs associated with living away from home.
Coverage might include restaurant meals or hotel stays. Just keep receipts from every transaction organized so you can reference them to your insurance company when necessary.
7. Compare Contractors
According to Progressive, homeowners insurance won’t reimburse you if a contractor does a poor job restoring your home.
Luckily, you don’t have to use the contractor your insurance company recommends. Do your own research to find the best deal for you.
Compare quotes with other contractors and read reviews to ensure they’re the right choice. It’s also worth looking up your contractor to verify their license.
8. Ask for an Advance on Your Claim
Immediately after a fire, your home could be uninhabitable and you may be in need of immediate financial help. If this is the case, ask your insurance company for an advance.
Typically, insurance companies are happy to provide advances on claims. Just keep in mind that advanced compensation deducts from your final payout.
9. Seek Legal Representation
Dealing with an insurance claim can be stressful and complicated. It’s important to document the fire insurance claim process to get the most value out of your policy. Connecting with a lawyer to negotiate with your insurance company can help relieve some pressure.
Additionally, if you’re a wildfire victim, it’s possible a third party caused the fire. Our lawyers can help you receive financial compensation and hold the culprit responsible. Nadrich & Cohen lawyers specialize in California wildfire lawsuits. If you’re victim to a wildfire, contact us for a free consultation.
How Does Insurance Pay Out in a Fire?
After an insurance adjuster assesses the damage to your home, your company will pay you a settlement amount to compensate you for the cost to repair your home and temporarily relocate.
What Can You Claim for Smoke Damage?
Clothing, rugs, curtains, furniture, appliances, porcelain and more could suffer from smoke damage. Damage to the structure of your home such as walls and studs should come out of your dwelling coverage.
How Do I Get The Most Out of My Fire Insurance Claim?
Understand your policy, document your damages, keep receipts and don’t get pressured into a quick settlement to get the most out of your fire claim.