What To Do If Your Home Has Been Damaged By Fire

January 4, 2012

Be Prepared, Cautious and Patient When Dealing With a Fire Claim

In the wake of the devastating fires that swept through Southern California this past week, it can be expected that many people are searching for answers about what to expect from their insurance companies should their homes have been damaged.

It will be very important to obtain a copy of your policy and to understand the protections that you were provided. Look for coverage relating to:

  • Dwelling – this is the coverage for your home
  • Dwelling Contents – coverage for your personal property
  • Additional Living Expense – this covers the expenses incurred due to the loss of use of your home (rental property, meals, etc.)
  • Scheduled Personal Property – covers items specifically designated (i.e., Jewelry, artwork, etc.)

Organize your paperwork, notes and inventory within these coverage categories. You can do this either with files or in a binder. Be sure to record the names and contact numbers for those you speak with. Try to confirm conversations with written correspondence, whether it be mail, fax or email. Put copies of these in your files. Be sure to save all receipts for temporary housing, items you replace, meals and also note any excess travel required by your relocation. Make copies of these and submit them to your assigned adjuster for reimbursement.

While there are laws protecting your rights, it is important to understand that the insurance adjusters job is to pay you as little as possible as quickly as they can. Be patient and don't feel rushed to accept the first offer made. Accepting an early offer may prevent you from recovering what you rightfully deserve.

Understand that you have the right to have your own adjuster evaluate your losses and are not compelled to accept the insurance adjusters evaluation. You are encouraged to seek out a few reputable contractors and get bids for the repair and/or reconstruction of your home before accepting your insurers offer. When getting these bids you will want to put together a "Scope of Loss" document. This is a room by room description of the home, detailing the sizes and quantity and quality of features and materials. You should present the same Scope of Loss document to the insurer and each contractor you solicit a bid from so that they can be compared equally.

Your insurer must fully and fairly investigate your claim. They are obligated to accurately inform you as to your coverage and provide you with the forms and reporting requirements particular to your claim. They must provide you with a copy of the regulations and laws that apply to your claim within weeks of your filing the claim. They must then pay or deny your claim within a reasonable time. Should they deny the claim, or any portion of it, they must explain the reasons for doing so.

Should you feel that your insurance adjuster is failing to meet any of these obligations you are encouraged to contact an attorney to assist you in achieving a fair and just evaluation of your claim. A reputable attorney will not require any immediate payment, but will instead require a percentage of that which they secure for you. This allows everyone to have access to professional protection.

We at O'Mara & Padilla hope that this information assists you during this hectic time. It is important to understand your rights and the coverage available to you. Should you find the process overwhelming, or if you simply wish to have an issue clarified, we would be happy to discuss it with you.

Wish you and our community all the best,

The Law Firm of O'Mara & Padilla