Fire Things to Know When Filing Your Claim

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Fire Claims

Fires are the number one disaster in the United States.

Whether flames have consumed a home or smoke has penetrated every pore, a fire rarely leaves anything in a house untouched. Both the process of cleaning up and settling your claim can be a messy, highly-emotional ordeal. Here's what you need to know to rebuild:

  • Your insurance policy should cover your loss, even if it was an accident caused by you
  • You are entitled to an equal standard of living while you repair the damage and settle your claim
  • Cleaning your home and personal property will be a bigger messier job than you think, and you need to know what's worth saving and what should be replaced

  • Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

    Fires are one of the most common reasons for insurance claims. Fire (arson), is also one of the most common types of insurance fraud, so insurance companies are naturally skeptical of fire claims. As you pursue your fire claim, the insurance company may ask questions that make you feel as if they suspect you of starting the fire: this is pretty common. The good news is that your insurance covers virtually every type of fire cause, from electrical to Acts of God to accidental (yes, even "stupidity" is covered). Virtually the only thing not covered is intentional destruction of property by the insured (or by a third party on behalf of the insured), and you can expect your insurance company to ask you directly if you intentionally caused the fire. In fact, you may get a "guilty until proven innocent" feel as you proceed with the claim.

    The Recorded Statement

    You will almost certainly be asked to make a recorded statement. Take the recorded statement very seriously; answer honestly, but do not reveal more than necessary. The insurance company will compare your answers with the information on your insurance application and the facts about the fire. They could use any discrepancies as grounds to refuse your claim. If you are asked to sit for an Examination Under Oath, it is time for you to hire legal counsel to represent you.

    Standard of Living During Reconstruction

    Settling your claim and rebuilding your home can take some time, and in most cases, your home will be uninhabitable. During this time you'll need a place to stay. You'll need new clothes and furniture. Part of your policy covers your living expenses while you repair your home, and you are entitled to an equivalent standard of living (even if it costs more than what you were paying). The problem is that your insurance company isn't required to pay this benefit until the entire claim is settled. This can take months, and if you don't have thousands of dollars in a savings account, they could be very long months. You can demand that your insurance company give you an advance on your claim for living expenses. They don't have to comply, but if the damage is obviously severe enough, they will generally cooperate. If they do not, it's a bad-faith gesture, and you could be in for a difficult claims process.

    Cleaning Up the Mess

    In most cases, many items in a home will be salvageable, but they require extensive cleaning and restoration. Your insurance company would rather pay to have items cleaned than replaced, but you should be the judge of that. Step in and make sure your cleaning company doesn't clean anything you feel cannot be restored to your satisfaction or is not worth cleaning. Once you've paid to have something cleaned, that money is gone, and if it's not cleaned to your satisfaction, that money is wasted. Set these items aside and push for the insurance company to provide you with their replacement value.

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