Residential Fire Damage Insurance Claims
For most people, their home is their biggest financial asset. An improperly compensated claim to a fire damaged home puts the true value of the home at significant risk. There are steps that every homeowner can take to ensure that they get every cent they are entitled to; not a nickel more, not a nickel less.
First, ask your agent or the adjuster to provide you with a complete copy of your policy. Your policy is the contract showing what your insurance company has promised to pay you if you were to suffer a catastrophic loss. You will need to read this or find someone unaffiliated with your insurance company (like a public adjuster) to read it for you and explain to you what your benefits are.
Second, according to your policy you have the duty to prevent any additional damage to the property. This might mean putting a tarp on the roof or boarding up the windows and doors. Most adjusters will know contractors to do this work for you, and this expense will be reimbursed to you as part of your policy benefits. You might even ask the adjuster if they would allow the company doing the mitigation to send the bill directly to the adjuster to pay. This could help with your cash flow.
On a side note, many of the carriers’ preferred contractors for mitigation work also do restoration work. The adjuster will suggest that you use one of their preferred contractors to do the mitigation as a way of introducing you to their contractor with the hopes that you will hire the contractor to do the repairs once the claim is settled. Never consider using one of the preferred contractors as they usually have too close of a relationship with the adjuster, and, consequently, are more loyal to them then to you.
Third, find a more permanent place to live than the motel you’d normally be staying in for the first few days after the fire. While the adjuster may try and steer you to a small apartment or rental house, you should know that the premiums you’ve paid allow you to live in a residence that is approximately equal to the size and quality of the one destroyed by the fire. This would also include renting the furniture to put in your new temporary home.
Fourth, your adjuster will give you some “homework” to do, consisting of putting together an extensive and comprehensive inventory of all the items destroyed in the fire. This is an arduous task for even the most detailed-oriented person, but even more so for a family going through a large loss. It is an emotionally draining process; if you aren’t willing, or able, to give the hundred or so hours needed to produce a well-documented contents list, then you may want to consider hiring one of our Inventory Specialists. The additional money that they would add to your claim would more than offset our fee and ensure that you maximize the benefits of your policy.
Finally, The Howarth Group would encourage to give your adjuster the benefit of the doubt, allowing them the time to inspect your home and come up with their estimate of what it will cost to restore your home. We would never encourage you to hire any public adjuster until you know, for a fact, that the carrier has written a deficient estimate. One of the jobs of the adjuster assigned to your claim is to write you an estimate. It will probably take him or her a couple of weeks to do so. Most public adjusters want you to pay them a percentage of the entire claim. That doesn’t make any sense to us. Why? Because if the adjuster is going to write an estimate and make a settlement offer, why would you want to give up any of what you are going to be offered?
We think a better solution is to wait for the adjuster to write his estimate and then have someone who is familiar with writing estimates for the insured read and evaluate the estimate in light of 1.) the known industry standards and practices, 2.) the actual damage to the house, and 3.) what your policy says you are entitled to. If it is significantly lower than what it should be, then, and only then, should you take issue with the carrier. We do this all the time and don’t charge any fee for our second opinion.
When you place your trust in our public fire claim adjusters, you can rest easy knowing that we will take the stress out of a residential fire cleanup. Our adjusters will work efficiently to address each minute detail and recover your lost property. We can help you return your life to its normal routine as quickly as possible. Be sure to give our company a call and see how a capable fire claim adjuster can help you get the best settlement out of your claim.