Meet With a Public Adjuster
The claims process, regardless of the type of incident that occurred, can be a lengthy and confusing journey. Even after all the hard work you’ve put towards a claim, it can still be denied. Meeting with a public adjuster can save you time and money. Working with a public adjuster could potentially quadruple, or even further increase, your claim payout.
Insurance companies can often undervalue your property damage claims and utilize expensive claim adjusters to ensure they are getting the best profit.
Claim adjusters sometimes (not always) exaggerate the depreciation of damaged property, especially when it comes to ACV coverage. Actual cash value = replacement cost – depreciation, so inflating depreciation can be beneficial to the insurance company.
Here at Fortitude Public Adjusters, we help you get the most out of your claim process. By working with us, we will help review and guide you through your policy to find out which type of coverage you have and how much in total you should be offered. Contact us at (844) 383-3473 or on our website.
How a Public Adjuster Can Help During a Fire Loss Claim
A public adjuster can be a tremendous help when dealing with a fire loss claim. We know the ins and outs of insurance policies and how to make a claim. We’re here to help figure out what the policy covers and how much it pays out.
More than that, a public adjuster makes sure every loss is well-documented. This is key for a successful claim. We also negotiate with the insurance company for the policyholder. We have experience assessing property damage, determining the value of lost or damaged items, and advocating for fair compensation. As a result, the payout can be much larger (as mentioned previously). This kind of help is especially valuable during tough times, like after a fire when homeowners might not have the strength or know-how to manage their claims.
What You Shouldn’t Do During This Time
Following a fire, your mind can be overwhelmed with emotions, making it challenging to make clear decisions about how to manage the damages and navigate the insurance process. It is important to us to highlight several critical actions to avoid during a time of fire loss.
Firstly, it’s essential not to rush into signing repair contracts or cleanup services immediately after a fire incident. At such times, it’s natural to be eager to restore normalcy as quickly as possible. However, quickly agreeing to terms without thoroughly reviewing them can lead to misunderstandings. It’s not uncommon for agreements to contain terms that are unfavorable to the property owner, leading to complications down the line. Therefore, always take your time to understand the terms before signing any contract or connect with your public adjuster to help get a better grasp on what is being agreed upon.
Secondly, it is crucial to avoid discarding any damaged items before the insurance adjuster has had a chance to inspect them. These items serve as evidence and are essential for documenting the severity and extent of the damage. Getting rid of these items prematurely can make it challenging for your claims, thereby affecting the claim process.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don’t attempt to handle the claim process by yourself. The process of filing and negotiating a fire loss claim can be complex and time-consuming. There are document processes that could lead to errors, and these mistakes can result in a lower settlement than you deserve. There are people and resources to help you with the claim and clean-up process for a reason. You don’t have to do everything alone.
What You Should Be Aware of During This Time
During a time of fire loss and damage, it’s essential to remain calm. As a public adjuster, the first piece of advice we give is to ensure everyone’s safety and then contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the fire. Prompt reporting can expedite the claims process but be cautious of just rushing through this claims process without either a great understanding yourself or help from a public adjuster as the insurance company is looking out for themselves more than they are likely looking out for your best interests.
Once the immediate danger has passed, begin documenting the damage. Take photos and videos of the affected areas and make a list of damaged items. This documentation will be invaluable when filing your claim. Remember, it’s better to have too much information than not enough.
Additionally, this would be a great time to thoroughly understand what your insurance policy covers in terms of Additional Living Expenses (learn more below). This will help you understand what, where, and how to go about dealing with temporary living situations and expenses.
What to do During a Fire Loss Claim
No one expects a fire to affect them… until it does. Many people brush off fire resources because they think they are prepared, but nothing can prepare you for potentially losing everything. Even worse, the insurance claim process is no less forgiving.
Fires, regardless of their size, can cause significant damage to your property. It is crucial to be prepared and informed to ensure a smooth and efficient claim settlement.
Before starting, take the time to review and comprehend your homeowner’s insurance policy thoroughly with your public adjuster. Familiarize yourself with the specific steps involved in filing a claim and the documentation required at each stage. Understanding your policy’s coverage limits, deductibles, and exclusions will help you make informed decisions during the claims process. These are usually found in a “Duties Following a Loss,” or similar section.
These duties include your contractual obligations to:
- Taking all the necessary steps to protect property against damage
- Documenting all the proof – invoices, receipts, etc. that will be required
- Contacting the police if a crime was committed
- Promptly notify your insurance company of your loss. Document the details of this communication as well.
- Other steps that may be required depending on your policy
If you fail to meet any of your policy requirements, your homeowner’s insurance claim may be at risk of being delayed or completely denied. If you cannot read or understand your policy, reach out to your insurance company or contact an experienced public adjuster who can help you.
Understand Your Insurance Policy
Understanding your insurance policy is something a public adjuster can best assist you with. Below are just some of the first questions that need to be answered.
Are You Insured? Does Your Policy Cover Damaged Property?
One of the first steps after a fire incident is to determine whether you have homeowners insurance coverage that includes protection against fire damage.
Are There Any Limits to Your Coverage?
Understanding the limits of your insurance coverage is essential to manage your expectations during the claims process. Your policy may include coverage limits for different categories, such as personal property, temporary living expenses, or rebuilding costs.
Have You Met All the Conditions in Your Policy?
Insurance policies often include specific conditions that policyholders must meet to ensure coverage for a fire loss claim. These conditions may vary depending on your policy.
Read Your Loss Settlement Provisions
Locate your Loss Settlement Clause in the Conditions Section of your homeowners’ insurance policy. This will tell you:
- How your insurance provider settles claims.
- Whether your policy pays the Actual Cash Value (ACV) or Replacement Cost Value (RCV) for damages.
- What will happen if you are underinsured/not covered?
Document Your Damages and Inventory of Your Personal Property
Document Your Damages
After a fire incident, it is crucial to document the damages to your property and inventory your personal belongings. Here are some important things to remember.
Be Careful with Entering/Documenting Losses at the Property
Before entering your property, ensure that it is safe and structurally sound. Do not enter if there is a risk of further damage or collapse. Wait for clearance from relevant authorities, such as the fire department or building inspectors. Once you have been given the green light to enter, proceed cautiously, and prioritize your safety at all times.
As soon as it is safe to do so, begin documenting the fire damage by taking detailed photographs and videos. Capture the extent of the damage to the structure, individual rooms, and specific items affected by the fire. A public adjuster can help you with this stage of the process to make sure you are documenting the right areas.
Don’t Move Things
Avoid moving or altering any damaged items until your insurance adjuster has had an opportunity to assess them. Moving items prematurely may inadvertently destroy potential evidence or make it more difficult to determine the extent of the loss. Preserve the scene as much as possible to aid in the investigation and evaluation process.
Reach an Agreement Before Throwing Things Away
Before disposing of any damaged items, consult with your public adjuster and obtain their approval or instructions. They may require you to keep certain items for further evaluation.
Receipts/List of Property You Created
Maintain a record of all personal property affected by the fire. This can include furniture, appliances, electronics, clothing, and other valuable items. A comprehensive list with detailed descriptions, purchase dates, and estimated values will help you substantiate your claim.
Secure Your Property
After a fire incident, it is crucial to secure your property to prevent further damage and protect it from potential threats. Here are important steps to follow:
Securing Areas That Have Been Destroyed
Identify areas of your property that have been destroyed or severely damaged by the fire. Take steps to secure these areas by cordoning them off or placing barriers to prevent access. This will help ensure the safety of individuals and prevent additional damage from external elements.
Board Up Windows/Holes
If your property has sustained damage to windows, doors, or walls, it is essential to board up these openings. Boarding up windows and covering holes will help prevent unauthorized entry, protect the property from weather-related damage, and discourage potential vandals or thieves. Secure the property by using plywood or other sturdy materials to cover the openings.
Make Consistent Stops to Check on the Property
Even after securing your property, it is essential to make regular stops to check on its condition. This will allow you to assess any potential changes, and address emerging issues promptly. Regular visits also show your insurance company that you are actively protecting your property from further damage.
Repair or Replace Personal Property
Depending on the degree of damage, it may be hard to determine if things can be repaired or fully replaced. Look for Pre-Loss Condition or similar words to that in your insurance policy. These areas discuss your insurance’s promise to you and can help determine which of your possessions need to be replaced vs. salvaged, repaired, stored, treated, etc.
Be cautious because this area can also deplete your limited claim dollars, just for you to find out that you failed to restore these items to their pre-loss condition. A public adjuster can help you understand the ins and outs of your insurance policy, and help repair and/or replace your property.
When deciding whether to replace or repair items, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there smoke damage?
- Is there burn damage that is causing the item not to work properly?
- Is anything of the item salvageable?
- Has the item been in contact with toxic chemicals?
- Does the item still function the same, even when cleaned?
- Will this item still last after being repaired?
- Will this item last longer if it is replaced?
- Is this item truly needed, or can it be replaced, or thrown out?
Track Additional Living Expenses
Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide coverage for Additional Living Expenses (ALE). Additional Living Expenses cover the costs associated with living away from your home during the time it takes to repair or rebuild it after a disaster.
This coverage typically includes:
- Temporary housing (i.e. hotel bills, rent)
- Utility fees
- Pet Boarding
Ask for An Advance on Your Claim
In the aftermath of a fire incident, it is often necessary to leave your property and seek temporary accommodations. In such cases, asking for an advance claim from your insurance company can be beneficial.
When your home is uninhabitable due to fire damage, you may need immediate funds to cover the costs of temporary housing, meals, and other essential expenses. Requesting an advance on your claim allows you to access a portion of the claim money before the final settlement, providing financial support during this challenging time.
An advance on your claim is typically a partial payment based on an estimate of the total claim amount. While it may not cover the entirety of your losses, it can help alleviate immediate financial burdens. This advance payment can be used to address urgent needs, such as securing temporary housing, purchasing essential items, or covering initial expenses.
There may also be unforeseen expenses to cover during this time. These can include costs for alternative transportation due to the unavailability of your usual mode of commuting, storage fees for preserving salvaged items, or expenses related to temporary repairs or accommodations.
Understanding ACV and RCV
Some homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the replacement of all your damaged property (RCV), while others cover only the cash value at the time of loss (ACV).
What is Actual Cash Value (ACV)?
Actual Cash Value (ACV) is the amount you would receive for your property if you sold it as-is, on the open market, at the time of loss. This is usually less than what your property is worth because it doesn’t include the cost of repairs or replacements.
What is Replacement Cost Value (RCV)?
Replacement Cost Value (RCV) is the amount it will take to repair or replace your damaged items and put them back into their original condition.
Damages to dwellings are often covered by RCV. ACV is standard coverage for personal property. If you have RCV coverage, and you have to replace your property, you’ll need to submit receipts to be reimbursed for the difference between ACV and RCV.
Save all your receipts of any personal property you replace. Check your Loss Settlement clause to determine what your policy should pay and contact a public adjuster to help you determine what best supports your claim.