When your home becomes engulfed in flames during a fire, the damage to your residence can be substantial. The home may be uninhabitable temporarily or even permanently. Fires can cause hidden water and smoke damage that might not be discovered without careful inspection. When a homeowner submits a claim for fire damage, he or she also faces the very real prospect that the insurance company might accuse the policyholder of arson. The loss of your home and/or belongings to a fire can be an extremely upsetting experience, but many policyholders endure even more stress and frustration when their insurance company refuses to promptly settle and pay fire or water damage claims.
Given the complex factual and legal issues involving fire damage claims, you might want to speak with an experienced insurance claims lawyer if your insurance company refuses to answer your questions or pay your claim. This multi-part blog post provides some key things you should know if your home is damaged by fire. While we have attempted to provide insight regarding many common issues, every situation is unique, so we invite you to contact us if you have specific questions about your situation.
File Your Fire/Water Claim Promptly and Pressure Your Insurer to Respond ASAP
Policyholders are obligated under insurance policies to file their claim as soon as reasonably possible. If you contact your insurance company immediately, this will allow you to get the process started promptly. An important part of the initial process involves submitting a “sworn proof of loss”. This document needs to provide an inventory of the property that you lost and the value of each possession. If your home is one of many damaged in a fire, tardiness in pursuing the claim could result in substantial delays because your claim might be relegated to the bottom of the list of claims.
When submitting your claim, the information you should provide includes:
- Type of damage or loss experienced
- Date of fire
- Any police report
- Injuries suffered in the fire
- Description of possessions damaged in the fire
- Location of damaged property
- Remedial measures necessary to prevent further damage
The claims process is complicated and time intensive, but claimants can improve the outcome of their claim by keeping organized records. The typical claims process might include many communications and request for information and documents. Policyholders should take notes regarding the date, time, contact person and substance of every communication whether via telephone, email or letter. If you furnish documents to your insurer, you should provide copies while retaining the originals. Insurance companies must meet statutory deadlines when responding once you file a claim and indicating whether the claim is covered, so your promptness can facilitate faster settlement and payment.
Seek Estimates for Repairs and Keep All Documentation
When you are submitting information to your insurance company, you will need to provide an estimate of the cost of repair or fair market value of your property that has been damaged or destroyed. An important step in the process is to retain an experienced contractor or estimator who has experience with fire damage and insurance claims. While the insurance company will send their own adjuster to conduct an inspection and evaluate of the loss, estimates from these inspections will predictably favor the insurance company.
If you have questions about Miami-Dade homeowners fire claims, we invite your to continue reading our other blog posts on fire insurance claims. You also are welcome to contact my Florida 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.