What to Do After a Fire Loss: Property Insurance Claims, Steps to Take & Tips
If you’ve ever experienced a home fire or have recently lost a part or all your property due to a residential fire, you know how devastating these unexpected events can be. Your family home, your memories, your treasured possessions – gone. Nobody wants to deal with the aftermath of a fire at home, especially when a fire can pose a serious health risk to our loved ones. Sometimes, things do go wrong. When they do, it’s imperative that you know what steps to take next, which is why we want you to know what to do after a fire loss.
There are likely a lot of hightened emotions following such an event, and it can be very difficult to keep a level head and navigate your next steps. Restoring your home is 100% possible with home insurance, and almost all standard home insurance policies in the United States offer coverage against residential fires. Here is Hitchings Insurance Agency’s guide for what to do after a fire loss, including how to make a property insurance claim and what to do with your home, along with additional tips.
After a Loss: A Step-by-Step Guide
The first thing to note after a loss is what you shouldn’t do! You should never re-enter your home immediately after a residential fire unless you have been told by a Fire Marshall or some other qualified individual that it is okay to do so. Your local fire department is trained to do search and rescue, and they have the protective gear that allows them to enter high-risk spaces (such as a home that’s still ablaze.) Even if your home is no longer on fire, the integrity of your home may have weakened due to the high heat and could crumble without warning.
Once you are allowed to enter your home again, do not power on any appliances or utilities unless you are told that you can do so. Do not clear away the damages/clean up, since your insurance company will want to assess the full scale of the loss to estimate claim payout. Moreover, clearing out soot can add to the residual smoke in the air, which can be damaging to your lungs. A cleanup crew may be enlisted to deal with the damage once the estimates have been completed.
Now, what should you do? Here are some steps:
- Ensure the safety of everyone who was living at home at the time of the accident. For elderly family members, children, and pets, do a thorough once-over to ensure they aren’t suffering from any smoke injury. If you suspect they might be, seek immediate medical assistance.
- To re-enter your home, request permission from your local Fire Department.
- Call your loved ones/family members to let them know what happened.
- Finally, call your home insurance provider or agent to begin the claims process.
If a fire was caused intentionally or was arranged for by the owner, it will not be covered. This would be considered insurance fraud. Insurance only covers unintentional acts and accidents. Moreover, if you’ve made a massive renovation to your home and you didn’t update your broker prior to the fire, you may find your coverage isn’t sufficient to fully pay out for the damages done to your home.
The Insurance Claims Process
Now begins the insurance claims process. A Claims Representative from your carrier should be assigned to your case. This is the person you can refer to at any point if you have questions.
You’ll want to document the damage as much as you can. So long as you have permission to enter your home, you can enter and photograph all the damaged items/damages in your home. At this point, it’s a good thing to have a home inventory list to prove your losses.
Once your claim has been opened, the claims process will unfold as such:
- A claim can be filed virtually or over the phone. Filing a claim can take upwards of 30 minutes. You’ll be asked to do a lot of things, like:
- Provide a full statement on the accident.
- Check the wording of your policy.
- Confirm your deductible and keep track of a claim number.
- Send in certain documents or be provided instructions about which documents you will promptly receive that need to be filled in.
- Call the nearest emergency response, security, or restoration service.
- An adjuster will be assigned to do an assessment of your property. Once they have done so, they will send in an estimate of the damages to your Claims Representative.
- Repairs can begin. You can ask for a preferred contractor or go with the one that your insurance company enlists for you.
- You may need to send in your own list of destroyed/damaged property with a rough estimate of the value that was lost. It’s a good idea to provide some evidence of proof of ownership. It isn’t necessary, but it can speed up the claims process. Proof of ownership can be receipts, warranties, photos, credit card statements, etc.
- The Claims Rep assigned to your case should begin analyzing your claim and will call to authorize the beginning of repairs. If any items or property has been written off, they will contact you to arrange a settlement. You’ll receive your settlement as soon as possible once the documents have been sent in. Your deductible will also be confirmed and your Claims Rep will determine who you will have to pay.
- Once you are satisfied with the repairs and all payments have been completed, your claim will be closed and you can go back to living as per usual.
We get it – it’s a tough time for you and everyone involved. If you have any questions during this time, don’t hesitate to reach out to the individual or people assigned to your case. Discuss with them if you have any concerns.
We hope you never have to deal with a tragic loss such as a residential fire, but we have your back if the unexpected strikes. Give us a call if you have further questions about how residential fire losses are handled.