Almost everyone who has suffered damages to their property as a result of a fire insurance claim makes costly mistakes during and after the settlement. However, there is one very costly mistake that policyholders make time and time again without even knowing it. And, the winner is (or should we say loser); Most policyholders simply rely on their insurance company adjuster to inspect, evaluate, and estimate their entire insurance claim without checking up on them. This can be the most costly mistake anyone could ever make in their entire life.
It’s bad enough to have your property destroyed by fire, but relying on someone else to visit your property, inspect it, provide a proper value, and then trust that they got it all correct… Is Simply INSANE! Yet, policyholders allow this to happen all across the country, day-in and day-out. For most people it’s human nature to count their “change” at the grocery store or diligently review their dinner bill to be sure the waiter didn’t charge them for items they didn’t order. We’ve all done it. We go out of our way to count and keep track of our chump change. Yet, when it comes to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars from a fire insurance claim, we rely on the insurance company without question.
No one knows your property like you do. There is much to do to properly prepare and configure a fire insurance claim that in most instances, items are forgotten or missed during the process. Especially if it’s done by someone at your insurance company. They don’t know about your building, your property, or your contents (furniture, clothing, etc.) like you do. How could they possibly be as accurate as you? Furthermore, just because an insurance company adjuster visits your property for an inspection does not mean they are a professional contractor, builder, or certified in fire and water damage restoration.
With the review of thousands of closed claims, we have found that in most cases, both insurance companies and policyholders unknowingly miss damages that are hidden from the naked eye. In almost all instances; it is a good idea to have a professional review your fire damage claim. Preferably a fire insurance claims appraiser, consultant, or fire consulting firm.
Policyholders often believe that when the insurance company sends them a check and they deposit the money in their bank account – the claim is closed. This could not be further from the truth. The fact is; that in most states a policyholder has 3-years to make a claim and even ADD to an existing claim. So, a review of your claim to see if you have been properly compensated can occur, during the claims process or even after the claim has been settled. You can also obtain more money from your claim – even if it has been torn down and demolished.
Yes, even if your claim has been settled and you have deposited the checks, or your building has been torn down and demolished, you can still obtain more insurance proceeds if the damages were not assessed properly. In many cases, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even when a policyholder believes they have received a fair settlement… they usually have not.
However, it’s up to the policyholder to do their part to protect themselves. Here are a few tips to assist in the review of your fire insurance claim. There are tips if you are in the middle of your claim – as well as tips if your claim has closed some time ago.
1. During Claim –
Document Your Building Damage: Take the time to inspect and document the damages yourself. Take photos of all damaged rooms in your building. Take overviews of the room and then take some close-up photos of the damaged ceilings, walls, floors, windows, doors, etc. of that room as well. Work your way around the building to the left (clockwise). Before entering the next room, closet, or hall – take an overview. This will be an easy way to organize which photos belong to which rooms. An example is; Overview of living room, then from top to bottom, photos of ceiling, walls, windows, doors, then the floor. Then the first photo of the next room is an overview, and so on. (No pictures or close-ups of contents yet, just the rooms.)
1. Closed Claim –
Obtain Documents Of Your Building: The insurance adjuster has taken photos of your building during their inspection. If you have no photos yourself, or minimal photos – then request all photos taken by the adjuster from the insurance company. You should also request the diagram/sketch they used to calculate the square footage of your building. Also request the complete detailed estimate they have written to arrive at their numbers. This documentation will be useful for the fire insurance claim consultant you choose.
2. During Claim –
Document Your Contents Damage: Next is to visit each room and closet once again to inventory your contents. Take an overview photo of each piece of furniture, pair of shoes, shirts, pants, etc. Then a close-up photo of any damage on that item. Write each item down on a Contents Inventory Form. (Download one by contacting us at the link below.) Similar to the way you have photographed and organized your building damage photos, you should do the same with your contents. Example; Take overview photo of living room, then work your way around the room to the left (clockwise). Photograph and list all the items on each wall until you get back to the doorway you started at. This way items will not be missed or forgotten. Once the living room inventory has been completed, move to the next room and start by taking an overview photo of the room. this helps organize what room the contents were located. List the name of the room at the top of each page of your inventory list. Now the photos and the list are both organized in sequence with each other.
2. Closed Claim –
Obtain Documents Of Your Contents Damage: The insurance adjuster has taken photos of your contents during their inspection as well. If you have no photos yourself, or minimal photos – then request all photos taken by the adjuster of your contents. You should also request the complete detailed contents inventory they have written to arrive at their numbers. This documentation will be useful for the fire insurance claim consultant you choose.
3. During Claim –
Review Your Policy: Fire victims must take the time to review their insurance policy. You must know the basics; How much coverage do you have on your building? How much coverage do you have for your contents (furniture, clothing, etc.)? How much coverage do you have to stay in a hotel or to rent a home or furniture? Surprisingly, many people don’t know this. In many cases the policy has been damaged in the fire. If this is the case; Visit your agent and ask for a certified copy of your full policy. Ask your agent to help explain how much coverage you have.
3. Closed Claim –
Obtain Copy Of Your Policy: Contact your insurance company and request a certified copy of your “FULL” insurance policy, including the Declarations page. This documentation will be useful for the fire insurance claim consultant you choose.
4. During Claim –
Consult A Professional: The insurance company will have an adjuster visit the property, inspect the damages, and complete an estimate on the amount of loss. It is important that you have the same process completed for yourself. How do you know the insurance adjuster is doing their job correctly? Are you willing to forfeit tens of thousands of dollars by not taking the time to make sure? The insurance company is supposed to explain all the fire insurance claim coverage that is available to the policyholder, however, this is rarely done. Sometimes it’s done on purpose, and other times it’s also done on purpose (Did you catch that? This is done on purpose more often than not.) It’s your property, it’s your policy, and it’s your money. Educate yourself to be sure you are being fully compensated for your loss. Hire a fire insurance claim professional to review the insurance company’s evaluation. Obtain your own “real-world” prices and costs to replace your property.
4. Closed Claim –
Consult A Professional: Did you receive a fair settlement for your fire insurance claim? How do you know unless you ask someone? If you are unsure if you have obtained a fair settlement from your insurance company, you owe it to yourself to find out. If you have collected all the data as outlined above; you will have enough data on your claim to have a professional review it. A review of your claim will allow the fire insurance claim consultant to advise you where you stand. Leaving yourself in the dark, with a chance of forfeiting tens of thousands of dollars, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars makes zero sense. A small fee to find out where you stand is a small price to pay, compared to a large sum of insurance proceeds that you did not know existed.
The reasons are simple. See, the insurance company adjuster works for the insurance company, whereas the fire claims consultant works for you. You’ve done the right thing by making sure you had insurance coverage. It’s up to you to take the next step and be sure you have received what you paid for.