When a fire occurs, the first thing to do is call 911 and get help. After firefighters have extinguished the fire and ensured that everyone is safe or has got the required medical assistance, you must attend to the damage. It can be complicated, given that you will be dealing with the loss from the fire itself, water damage from extinguishing the fire, and smoke damage. Smoke can cause significant property damage long after the fire has been put out because of tarnished surfaces or smoke getting absorbed into porous materials.
Here is what you need to know about filing a claim and getting an insurance company to compensate you properly.
How To File a Fire Insurance Claim for Soot, Ash, or Smoke Damage To Your Home
The important thing for you to do is remain calm. Repeated calls to your insurance company or the agent will not make the process go any faster. A fire can be traumatic, so focus on maintaining your health. You can follow these steps to file a claim:
Document Property Damage
Before you contact your insurance company, you should take stock of the smoke damage. If the damage has affected anyone's health, you should immediately seek medical help. Medical records will serve as evidence for your claim. If smoke has damaged your possessions, get them repaired so that the bills can further support your claim. Make an inventory of everything that was damaged and take pictures and videos of the damage.
Ensure that you keep the paperwork regarding:
The date of the fire
The exact type of damage caused
Your contact information or the contact info of the property owner from whom you rent your home
The parts of the premises that were damaged
A list of all damaged possessions
A copy of the police report
Receipts for restoration and repair, medical, and remediation expenses
Receipts of food, hotel, or similar costs incurred directly or indirectly due to smoke damage
It is also best to have your insurance agent in the loop and ensure that they have all the required information. They have dealt with these types of situations and can help you file a valid claim and extend any other help as needed.
File A Claim With Your Insurance Company
It is crucial that you file a claim as quickly as possible. Filing earlier means that you receive your claim quicker, and there is a lower chance for more damage to happen. It ultimately increases your chances of getting the insurer to admit your claim.
After you successfully file a claim, you will be asked to provide evidence of the damage. The insurance company will also send out their adjuster to survey your premises, calculate the damages, and estimate when your claim will be paid.
Assist the Adjuster
It's in your best interest to cooperate with the adjuster. Allow them access to the property so that they can investigate the damage and show them the damaged areas that you have already disclosed. After the inspection, the adjuster will submit a report to the insurance company about the validity of your claim.
If you think that your adjuster is biased, unqualified, or untrustworthy, you can also request the insurer to send a different person, or you can hire one yourself.
The insurance Offer
Your insurance company will offer you compensation based on the adjuster's report. Before accepting the offer, you need to do your homework. Calculate the replacement or repair costs of items damaged by the fire or smoke. If the offer is below the amount you calculated, you should reject it because you cannot file a legal case against your insurer if you accept unfair compensation.
If you are uncertain about what to do at this step, contact Englander Peebles. Our smoke damage lawyers will do the required research to see if the offer is adequate. If the offer is unfair, we will advise you about the legal options available to you, work to strengthen your case, and negotiate with the insurer so that they increase their offer.
You can proceed with the filing and handling the smoke damage claim yourself. However, without a dedicated property insurance lawyer by your side, your insurance company can try to:
Undervalue the length of damages sustained by you.
Initmidate you into acceptiong a low offer.
Exploit loopholes in your insurance policy.
Give a misleading report.
Delay your compensation.
Refuse your claim.
A Miami smoke damage lawyer from Englander Peebles can help you sidestep those issues and build a strong case so that you can confidently seek compensation. Contact us to schedule a free initial case review.