When you call to report your damage, you’ll also want to be prepared to ask questions. These can include questions such as:
- Does my homeowner’s insurance policy cover the property damage to my home?
- Will I need to obtain estimates for repairs and replacements?
- How long will it take to process my claim for coverage?
- Do I have a deductible? If so, how much is it?
When you contact your insurance company and give them notice of your damage, you should also request that they send an adjuster to your property as soon as possible.
Document everything. Next, you need to create a documentation of all your damage, including all of your belongings and property that were damaged or destroyed by the fire. Create what insurance companies call a “Proof of Loss” form, which is a document listing all of pieces of property that were destroyed or damaged. This should include destroyed and damaged physical property, like your vehicle, furniture, clothing and other belongings. It should also include your real property, such as your home, land, crops, and structures like sheds and garages. Don’t forget to include every aspect of your home, including tools, crafting materials, linens, china and silverware, electronic equipment, sports equipment, and holiday decorations. Go room by room through your house and try to picture the contents of each area, and write a description of each item that was there.
As you make the list, include as much detail as you are able to see or remember about each item, such as:
- the size, make, model or brand;
- when and where the item was purchased;
- details like the materials, color and location in your home; and
- how much you remember paying for each item.
Support your written documentation in your Proof of Loss with photographs of your damage. Include shots from several angles of each item of property that is damaged. Stay organized so that you can match each photograph to an item or items in your Proof of Loss document.
If you have a cell phone or a video camera, take the time to make a slow and steady video recording of your entire property. Start at the outside of your home and circle your entire residence and property. Then, walk inside with the camera, walking from room to room throughout the entire house. This is an excellent way to document damage to your personal property, and even a simple 5-minute video can make the difference between an item being covered by your insurance or not. After recording, be sure to keep a copy of the video in a safe location, such as in your safety deposit box or store it in the cloud.
Don’t throw anything away.
Hold onto any property that was damaged until the insurance claims adjuster comes to your home to inspect the damage. You want the claims adjuster to be able to see every piece of damaged property, so it’s included in his or her assessment. Even if you took a photograph of it—keep it. You don’t want to give the insurance company any excuse to deny your claim for that piece of property.
The Claims Adjuster Visit.
The claims adjuster is a person who is professionally trained to assess damage to your property. This person will visit your home before your insurance company declares what it will cover of your damage, in order for it to independently assess the value of the damage you’ve incurred. In most situations, the insurance adjuster will conduct a complete and thorough inspection of your home to fully evaluate the damage.
However, when the demand for adjusters is incredibly high the adjuster may be forced, due to time constraints, to do what is called “scoping the loss.” This is a briefer inspection of your property damage, with perhaps a later, second visit to complete the inspection. At a minimum, this scope of loss visit should include:
- the degree of damage to your property
- the quality of the materials and workmanship to your home
- measurements of your home, other structures, and major furniture;
- a raw count of property quantities and itemizations
Throughout this entire process, keep a record of all communications with your insurance company and your adjuster.
If you’re unsure about your rights, your insurance policy, or your policy’s coverage and limitations: don’t worry. Our team of insurance and disaster law attorneys have decades of experience counseling victims of fire and other natural disasters about their rights as insured, throughout all stages of the insurance claims process—including the home inspection. We work alongside you to ensure that you understand your rights—and that you don’t sign them away as a result of misleading insurance company terms and paperwork. We are here to advise you throughout every stage of the claims process to make sure that you are not taken advantage of by your insurance company, and—most importantly—that you receive the maximum compensation you deserve for your losses.
During this time, put yourself at ease, and put our years of experience at work for you.