While the threat of fire might not be the peril that constitutes the highest risk of causing damage to a home, the impact of a fire caused by natural causes like lightning or manmade causes like poor electrical wiring can be financially devastating. Although homeowners can file a claim under their homeowners policy to cover such a loss, fire insurance companies frequently cut corners to reduce liability on fire insurance claims. Because fire damage can constitute a catastrophic loss, homeowners should carefully review their policy and familiarize themselves with the process of filing a fire insurance claim. This two-part blog provides suggestions for homeowners with claims based on damage caused by fire.
File Your Claim Immediately & Urge the Insurance Carrier to Promptly Process the Claim
Homeowners policies generally require policyholders to file their claim as soon as reasonably possible. This means that you should call you insurance company to provide notice of the claim at the earliest opportunity. The insurer may require that you file a “sworn proof of loss.” This document should include an itemization of all items that were damaged or destroyed by the fire. It is especially important to promptly pursue your fire damage claim if other properties were destroyed by a massive fire. If you are tardy in filing a claim, your claim may become last priority among the fire damage claims made to your insurance carrier. This can mean a substantial delay in payment in your claim because the insurance carrier might take longer to get an insurance adjuster out to inspect your property. When you are making a claim, you should be prepared to provide the following information:
- Location of the property
- Description of damaged property
- Police report (if applicable)
- Fire Department report
- Date of Fire (Loss)
- Any temporary repairs needed to mitigate loss
- Type of damage
- Injuries incurred
- Property condition
- List of damaged contents
Activities and communications with the insurance company should be meticulously documented, which includes telephone calls, letters, proof of mailing, emails and documents sent or received. When you talk on the telephone or in person with the insurance company, you should take notes and confirm the conversation in writing with a follow up letter. When your insurance carrier requests documents from you, it is important that you keep the original and provide copies to the insurer.
Inventory All Items Damaged & Avoid Discarding Anything
The only way to obtain full compensation for your loss is to carefully inventory every item that is damaged or lost in the fire. Every member of your household should contribute to this process because this approach reduces the risk of inadvertently omitting items. If you prepare the list right away, this also mitigates the risk of forgetting items that might have been destroyed.
A common mistake made by homeowners filing claims for fire damage involves discarding items. Whether items are ruined by fire and smoke, the adjuster needs to see this debris to accurately adjust your claim. Sometimes insurance companies will refuse to pay for items if you cannot prove that they were destroyed in the fire using photos, receipts, credit card statements, cancelled checks or other forms of evidence. If you retain the remains of such items, the process of proving the loss will be less difficult.
If you have questions about Florida fire insurance claims, you are welcome to contact my Miami insurance claims dispute law firm. My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.