After a fire, you are likely to be emotional and stressed; forced out of your home and dealing with the loss of personal items. It is important to know how to deal with your insurance company in the aftermath to minimize your stress and protect your rights.
The most important thing to remember is to begin communicating with your insurance carrier immediately. The earlier you begin the process, the earlier your claim is completed. Also, your insurance company will get you an advance to cover your living expenses while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.
It is also important to keep detailed records of everything. Put an itemized list of lost property and damages on paper, take photographs, and keep notes of every conversation you have with your insurance company and other professionals while recovering. You will be understandably flustered and relying on recalling facts and figures at this time would be a mistake.
It is an unfortunate fact that there are scam artists out there looking to take advantage of people in vulnerable situations. Make sure you get legitimate estimates from licensed contractors. An insurance company may refuse to reimburse you for payments made to an unlicensed contractor.
Your insurance carrier’s adjuster will give you their estimate for the cost of repairing, replacing, or rebuilding. You should contact an independent estimator to get your own figure and the materials you need to back it up. You are not required to accept what the insurer offers. They may send you a letter or release to sign to close your claim. Don’t sign it until you believe your claim has been fairly reimbursed and your home is back in an inhabitable condition. Often it is not until you are in the process of rebuilding that you realize all of the costs that need to be covered, and the insurance company will not reimburse you for additional expenses after the claim is closed.
A couple of final tips to remember – continue to pay your insurance premiums and stay on top of your carrier throughout the process. Your homeowner’s insurance will continue to protect you while workers and other visitors and professionals are in your damaged home. And we all know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so speak up for yourself and make sure that your insurance company processes your claim promptly.