How to Properly File a Fire Insurance Claim After a Fire
Megan Simonsen | Jan 18, 2023
When your home or business is damaged by fire, sometimes the only thing that remains is ash. Policyholders nationwide who have experienced a fire loss know this is a devastating experience that can change your life in just a few short moments.
In trying times like this, you might realize you don’t know the proper steps to take when filing a fire insurance claim. No worries – we’re here to help.
9 Steps for Filing a Fire Insurance Claim
Here are some steps you can take that will guide you after the smoke clears, and it’s time to take action.
1. Don't Enter the Property Until You're Told It's Safe
Once the fire is out, fire responders will give you the “all clear” on your property, then you can enter and take stock of your belongings and property. It’s essential to listen to the first responders. Your property may seem safe, but looks can be deceiving.
2. Contact Your Insurance Company and Track Every Interaction
Contact your insurance company, and make sure you’re present during all inspections. It’s crucial that you are aware of every interaction you have with them. Take notes, and save emails and documents sent to you to avoid the “he said, she said,” game insurance companies like to play.
3. Use Caution When Entering Your Damaged Property
Use extreme caution every time you enter a fire-damaged property. The fire may be out, but your property is still damaged and can be potentially dangerous.
4. Know Your Rights When Giving Statements About the Fire
Ensure you know your rights and obligations when giving statements about the fire or the loss. Hold onto your copy of the fire report. Even when the fire is not incendiary, it’s important to know that investigators will often question and challenge the cause of the fire, the items lost in the fire, and the building components. Questioning the cause saves the insurance company money if they can find or proffer an excuse not to pay your claim.
5. Don't Throw ANYTHING Away
Don’t throw anything away. Again, do not throw anything away. Often, we’re anxious to try to clean up the mess and move on, but the scene should not be disturbed until the clearance is given, and items should not be disposed of without having the insurance company review them.
Be sure to take your own photos and video before you dispose of an item. Do not rely on the insurance company’s adjuster, even if they are taking pictures.
6. Catalog All of Your Belongings
Catalog everything and take photos. Even if a dry-cleaning company is coming in to clean your softer belongings – you need to know every item they have and get a picture before it leaves your property. A public insurance adjuster can assist you with this process and deal directly with the insurance companies, but you will need to do substantial work on the cataloging side of the claim.
7. Find a Dry Cleaning Company That Specializes in Post-Fire Cleanup
Inquire with cleaning companies about what happens if the item doesn’t come clean. Find out what happens if the item is cleaned to their standard but not yours. It’s always best to do some research and find companies that specify in post-fire clean-up.
8. Use Caution When Sorting Through Your Belongings
Be very careful sorting through the ash and the rubble. You don’t want yourself or anyone else to get injured. Again, take many photographs, especially if anything in the remains shows a serial or model number.
9. Provide a FULL Inventory of Your Belongings
Be cautious if anyone rushes you to turn in an inventory of items. So often, we hear from policyholders that they were told they just needed to give an initial list and values and that they could add more items later. Insurance companies routinely fail to pay the supplemental lists. They frequently argue in court that items on the second list were not lost in the fire because an insured would have remembered to put keepsakes and high-value items of great importance on the first list.
Contact an Experienced Attorney for Additional Assistance
These are just nine short guidelines that will be helpful when filing a fire insurance claim, but you may need more guidance when dealing with a fire or smoke loss. It’s best to consult an experienced insurance professional early in the claims process to determine whether the proper steps are being followed. Don’t let the shock of the loss or the bullying techniques of an insurance company stop you from getting your life back.
When you need assistance during this challenging time, The Lane Law Firm is here to help. Our knowledgeable lawyers have been fighting and winning against insurance companies since 2009. Let us handle your denied, underpaid, or delayed property insurance claim and get you paid, risk-free.