Move quick on fire-related claims

May 16, 2008

Get inspections, policy information

By Nadia Vanderhoof
Treasure Coast Palm--May 14, 2008

TREASURE COAST — Whether it be hurricanes or wildfires, the steps to filing a homeowners claim because of damage from a natural disaster can be quite cumbersome and stressful.

This week wildfires in Brevard County affected parts of north Indian River County and closed several major highways linking various parts of the Treasure and Space Coast.

“People typically don’t associate Florida with wildfires, they often think of California. Yet this is the second straight year that the Sunshine State has had severe wildfires in May,” said Lynne McChristian, Florida spokeswoman for the New York-based Insurance Information Institute. “Last year Florida was the site of almost 5,000 wildfires and ranked eighth overall in the number of acres burned because of wildfires.”

Here are some tips to filing a homeowners claim if you had fire damage in your home:

Phone your agent or company immediately. Insurance policies place a time limit on filing claims. Find out what the time limit is. Ask questions about your coverage, deductible, how long will it take to process your claim and whether or not you’ll need estimates for repairs to structural damage.

Report any crime to the police. If you are the victim arson, theft, or if your home has been vandalized or burglarized, report it to the police immediately. Get a police report and the names of all law enforcement officers that you speak with.

Make temporary repairs if the dwelling is safe. Take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage. Save receipts for what you spend and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.

Prepare a list of lost or damaged articles. You are going to need to substantiate your loss. Avoid throwing out damaged items until the adjuster has visited your home. Consider photographing or videotaping the damage. Prepare a home inventory, make a copy for your adjuster and supply him or her with copies of receipts from damaged items.

If you need to relocate, keep your receipts. If your home is severely damaged and you need to find other accommodations while repairs are being made, keep records of all expenses incurred. Some homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the loss of use of your home.

Get claim forms. Once your insurance company has been notified of your claim, the company is required to send you the necessary claim forms to you by the end of a specified time period. Return forms as soon as possible to avoid delays.

Have an adjuster inspect the damage to your home. Your insurance company will arrange for an adjuster to come and inspect your home. Once you and your insurance company agree on the terms of your settlement, state laws require that you be sent payment promptly. If you have any questions about the claim filing laws in your state, call your insurance agent.

Source: Insurance Information Institute 