There’s so much to do in the aftermath of a fire that it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s important to know what steps to take to prevent more damage, stress, and paperwork, as well as to save yourself money at this difficult time. Follow these suggestions to making navigating the fire insurance claim process smoother and more efficient.
Secure Your Home Against Further Damage.
The flames may be out, but secondary damage continues to occur until remediation begins. Water, smoke, soot, and even firefighting chemicals continue to etch and damage your home and its contents, even affecting items that weren’t damaged in the initial fire. The damage will be permanent unless cleaning and restoration begins soon after the fire is extinguished. Be sure that any broken windows or holes in the building are covered, to prevent animals and vandals from entering.
Ask for an Advance on Your Insurance Claim.
Regardless of whether you’ll be staying at a hotel or with friends after the fire, you’re going to need replacement items immediately, such as toothbrushes, personal grooming items, food, and so on. Before you pay for these items out of pocket, ask your insurance adjustor for an advance on the claim on your homeowner’s insurance policy. The policy only covers the actual cash value of the lost items, and you’ll have to pay the difference if you wish to have updated or more expensive items. However, this advance will be a great deal of help, especially if debit and credit cards were lost in the fire because it will take a few days for your bank to replace them.
File A Claim Promptly.
The sooner you file a fire damage insurance claim, the sooner it can be settled. If the loss was part of a larger disaster like a wildfire, prompt filing means that your claim will be settled sooner than those of people who waited. You will be asked to document the items you lost, as well as their value. This may take some time because you probably won’t remember everything the first time you try to make a list. Be sure to keep copies of all correspondence between yourself and the insurance company during the claims process and take good notes during phone calls and in-person meetings. It’s a good idea to buy a large expandable folder and use the sections to organize correspondence, estimates, receipts, bills, and other paperwork.
Stay in Contact with the Insurance Company.
Ask your adjustor for a rough timeline of when things will occur during the claims process; when the estimator will arrive, when paperwork needs to be completed, and so on. Having a timeline allows you to stay on top of things so you won’t get lost in the shuffle, especially in the case of a large-scale disaster. Touch base regularly with the adjustor to make sure the claim hasn’t run into any delays that can be easily solved. It will also give you peace of mind to know that things are progressing according to schedule.
Keep All Your Receipts.
The insurance company will need these as proof of your living expenses, so you can be compensated. Keep in mind that they will reimburse reasonable expenses, so don’t check into a 4-star resort or eat in expensive restaurants every night. This isn’t the time to upgrade your wardrobe with designer clothes.
Get Estimates on Repairs and Restoration.
Your home is going to need some kind of cleaning and repair after the fire, so be sure to have a professional give you a written estimate on these costs. Get estimates from a few reputable companies and ask your adjustor for recommendations. Keep all estimates and other paperwork in your files.
Lean on Family and Friends.
A fire is a traumatic experience that takes a physical, emotional, and financial toll on you. Let your family and friends support you during this time and take them up on offers of a place to stay, money, child care, or other assistance. It’s ok to need and accept help sometimes. An evening with friends enjoying a movie in the middle of the claims process may be just what you need.
If you experience fire damage in northern IL or southern WI, call the highly experienced professionals at ServiceMaster Kwik Restore. We’ve helped residential and commercial clients in Lake, McHenry, and Kane Counties in IL and Racine, Kenosha, and Milwaukee Counties in WI recover from fires of all sizes. We use only the most effective cleaning products and equipment available to remove toxins from your home and its contents before they are permanently damaged. We can also rebuild damaged structural elements.
Fire damage restoration costs vary, depending on the extent of the fire and the damage. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the national average is $11,146.
If you are interested in the Insurance Claim Process for Water Damage, please check our previous blog.
If you are an insurance adjuster, and wonder how to handle water and fire damage claim for your clients, please check another previous blog.