Deadly fast-moving wildfires can destroy everything you own, leaving you with just the clothes on your back. And that’s if you are able to evacuate in time to save your life.
When a wildfire damages or levels your home, do you know what to do to get life back on track? Your preparedness and quick filing of an insurance claim are crucial to getting your home quickly repaired or rebuilt.
insurancepublicadjustersofgeorgia.com has gathered post-disaster tips and useful preparedness information to help you manage your way through the stress and property damages caused by wildfires.
Homeowners Insurance Coverage and Claim Tips
Although preemptive property protection is ideal, it’s not realistic for everyone because wildfires can ignite anywhere when the conditions are right. Once the damage is done and the fires extinguished, the process begins for unprepared homeowners as they start to file claims and hope for the best.
The size of the wildfire and number of homes damaged can profoundly influence the time it takes to approve or deny a claim. Sometimes so many homes are damaged that it takes adjusters a long time to review the claims and examine the damages.
In some cases, the devastation is so great that even after the claim has been approved there aren’t enough contractors to repair or rebuild damaged homes in a timely manner.
The following tips will help you speed up the property loss claim and repair processes.
Tip 1 – Call in Your Claim As Soon As the Danger Has Passed
The faster you are able to initiate the claim process, the quicker your damages will be inspected. When there are widespread damages, the longer you wait to initiate your claim, the longer the process will take.
Tip 2 – Document Everything
For your possessions, the following will help you prove ownership and their condition prior to damages:
• Pictures or video of the home and of your possessions
• Receipts for large-ticket items
• Having an inventory list of damaged possessions
For the insurance company, the following will help you manage your way through disputes, misinformation, and provide support in the event you sue the insurance company.
• Document all conversations including the date, time, who you spoke with, what was discussed, and what resolutions were made – if any.
• Request all promises or determinations in writing. Never settle for someone’s word.
• Document the time, location, participant names, and discussed information from any meetings with insurance adjusters or officials.
From the Building Contractor, the following documentation will help you in getting a fair value for your claim while ensuring that repair costs are covered.
• Get detailed estimates from several reputable contractors as quickly as possible. If there is a great disparity between the contractor’s quotes and that of the claims adjuster, you have a basis for argument.
• When contractor quote values present substantial differences from those of the claims adjuster, request explanations in writing. It is more difficult for them to dismiss written professional explanations.
Note: You are in no way required to use the insurance company’s contractor.
Tip 3 – Know Your Policy Limitations
In situations of total loss, know how your insurer will cover these costs. In many cases, the typical payout is 20% over the value of the policy. If the replacement value of your home was $500,000, the maximum payout would be $600,000 in this example.
When a widespread disaster occurs, building materials will often drastically increase in price, forcing contractors to raise their estimates. Most insurance policies will not take this into account.
If you are dissatisfied with the resolution of your claim, you can dispute it by way of:
- Presenting the case to the insurance company’s consumer relations department,
- Presenting the case to your state’s insurance department,
- Consulting or retaining a lawyer, or
- Contracting an insurance public adjuster.
Tip 4 – Save All Out-Of-Pocket Receipts
When forced to evacuate, keep all of your receipts for lodging, meals, and personal necessities. These expenses are reimbursable up to the value established in your insurance policy.
Tip 5 – Contract An Insurance Public Adjuster
If you are not comfortable handling negotiations or disputes with your insurance company, you can contract a public adjuster to represent and protect your interests.
Your insurance company’s adjuster is limiting their expense and protecting the company’s interest.
An insurance public adjuster will take the time to comb through your insurance policy to hold the insurance company accountable, and ensure they settle and pay you the maximum benefits of your policy.
Wildfire and Disaster Preparedness
As with any impending disaster, when an evacuation order is issued, your ability to “grab and go” may mean the difference between a fast or slow recovery process. In extreme situations, it could be a matter of life and death.
Your original documents should be kept in a fire and water-proof safe, or safe deposit box. Another alternative is to keep digital copies in a password protected cloud service.
Copies of your documents should be kept with your emergency “go kit” and updated when any changes are made.
Having quick access to the documents and records listed below will help you start the recovery and claims process in the immediate days following a major loss.
• Usernames and Passwords for Financial Accounts
• Driver’s License or State Issued Identification Card
• Birth Certificates
• School Transcripts
• Marriage, Divorce, and Death Certificates
• Social Security Card and/or Statement
• Health Insurance Policies
• Medical Records
• Prescription Information
• Last Will and Testament
• Automobile Title or Financing Information
• Title, Deed, or Mortgage Documents for the house
• Homeowners Insurance Policy
• Pictures of Your Home and Possessions
• Detailed Inventory of Your Possessions
• Pet Medical Records, Registration, and Recent Photos
For more in-depth information on wildfire preparedness, visit ready.gov/wildfires
Homeowners Insurance Coverage, Claims, And Natural Disasters
Natural disasters like wildfires can turn your life upside down. When you are left with nothing, it is your insurance that is liable to step in and protect you.
In this article, you’ve discovered insurance claim tips, how to dispute your insurance company’s decision, the importance of filing claims promptly, how an insurance public adjuster can help you maximize your claim payout, and which documents should be in your evacuation or “go kit.”
Being prepared and promptly filing your insurance claim speeds the entire process up in your favor. In the face of a disaster, procrastination will only extend your dilemma, delay repairs, and potentially result in disputes with your insurance company.
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