Dealing with the aftermath of a house fire is difficult on every level. Intense emotions, coupled with practical needs and complicated insurance processes, make what is already a tragic event even more difficult. Fortunately, your homeowners insurance is a safety net that should help you to recover financially.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Documenting everything and remaining firm are key when dealing with an insurance adjuster after a house fire. While adjusters are there to help you, they are also tasked with saving money for the insurance company, so vigilance is key.
How Do You Deal with an Insurance Adjuster After a House Fire?
When you file a claim with your homeowners insurance company, an insurance adjuster will arrive at the site of the loss (in this case, your home) and conduct a thorough inspection. It is the adjuster’s job to assess the damage and provide a realistic estimate of the costs of rebuilding or repairing your property.
Adjusters also are tasked with identifying if any of the losses from the fire can be mitigated. Essentially, this means that your homeowners insurance company will try to pay only for the damages your policy covers. If the fire was caused by a malfunctioning appliance, the insurance company may try to seek damages from the appliance manufacturer. If the local fire department did not respond to the fire in a timely fashion, the insurance adjuster could try to seek reparations. Generally speaking, though adjusters are on your side, it is also their job to “adjust” the claim, which could result in you getting less money.
To make the adjusting process easier, document everything that you possibly can. Make a list of the property that was damaged in the fire and have it ready for the insurance adjuster. Do not dispose of damaged possessions; having these proves ownership and will make it easier to get reimbursed quickly.
What Do You Do After a House Fire?
Filing your claim immediately is important to get the process rolling. Be firm with your homeowners insurance company, and request an advance against your insurance payout right away to defray the cost of basic living expenses while your claim is processed. When you receive a settlement offer, be prepared to counter and request more money. Have recent information about other local properties and updated estimates from contractors to use as backup for your request.
While you will want thorough documentation of all parts of your home that were damaged, you also will need to secure your property so further damage does not occur. Once you have documented damages, board up holes in walls, ceilings or fences and remove valuables from the area.
Is Soot Damage Covered by Insurance?
Typically, homeowners insurance covers damage from soot, smoke, ash and flames. If you are unsure, ask your insurance adjuster or another representative to explain the fire coverages on your policy.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Settlement Check?
Unfortunately, the insurance claims process can be a long one. In certain instances, claims may be paid right away. A small upfront check may also be provided to defray basic costs, followed by the remainder of your settlement at a later time. Often, you will not receive a settlement check until the entire investigation has been completed, which can take as long as two years. Remaining vigilant, documenting every interaction with your insurance company, and involving an attorney if necessary can help you to get the compensation you deserve in a timely fashion.
What Does Insurance Cover After a House Fire?
Most homeowners insurance policies cover your house and any attached structures like a garage. They may also cover detached structures, like a shed. If you are unable to return to your home for a period of time, insurance will likely cover the cost for you to stay in a hotel. Homeowners insurance also extends to your personal belongings, but there may be limits to this coverage.
Getting acquainted with your homeowners insurance policy before a disaster is a smart idea. If you are unsure what levels of coverage you might need, talk to an insurance agent and evaluate your finances. Preparing for an unlikely and tragic house fire can put your mind at ease that, were one to occur, your family would be provided for.