Tips for Filing Wildfire Claims

If you are one of the home or business owners who suffered losses because of the wine country wildfires, you will need to file an insurance claim as soon as possible. Following a few important steps can increase your chances of a successful recovery.

Start a Claims Journal

Things can get quite complicated when you’re filing a compensation claim. To prevent confusion, start a claims journal immediately. The claims journal should contain information about your contact at the insurance agency, the adjuster, the evidence of damage, an inventory of damaged furniture, equipment and other belongings, as well as regular case updates. Provide a copy of your claims journal to your insurance provider.

Your journal should also include the contact information of trusted contractors and their estimates. Try to get several quotes for the costs to repair and rebuild. Meeting with several experienced contractors will give you a much better idea about the scope of the damage and the amount of compensation you may need.

Check in with Your Insurance Provider Often

The first thing you should do, even before you start gathering evidence, is call your insurer to file a claim. Be sure to write down the name of the person you talk to as well as any information they provide. Find out exactly what evidence your insurer wants you to provide as well as any coverage limits you may have.

Currently, California insurers are dealing with a large number of claims. As a result, delays and mistakes are possible. It’s your responsibility to provide all the information they need in a timely manner, and it’s their responsibility to do the same. Don’t be afraid to remind them of that.

The same applies to doing emergency repairs and temporary improvements. Always contact your agent before starting. There could be a cap on emergency repairs and any costs over that limit may not be covered. Don’t sign anything or agree to the conditions of a contractor before checking in with your insurer. Keep all receipts for any temporary or emergency repairs, and send your insurance provider copies.

Secure Your Property

Secure your property if you can to mitigate further damage. This could entail boarding up busted windows and doors, tarping a roof that’s been damaged by heat or flames. But be very cautious working with ash and soot. Protect yourself by wearing a breathing mask, gloves, long sleeves, and long pants while you are working on the fire damaged property.

While some properties were totally destroyed, others sustained only damage. Take pictures and videos of the damage before removing any materials and provide copies to the insurance company.

Commercial Claims: The Specifics

Whether you own a residential or a commercial property, the rules for filing a claim are more or less the same.

The one difference for businesses is that they can get business interruption coverage for the period during which the premises are being repaired. To prove the loss of revenue, however, a business owner will have to provide the insurance agency with extensive financial data – invoices, financial reports, industry forecasts, contracts with clients, payroll documents, etc.

Wineries, farmers and business owners who have sustained losses in a wildfire could benefit from governmental assistance and other resources available for faster recovery. The California State Board of Equalization offers emergency tax relief for up to three months in the case of a natural disaster. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is also waiving the tax penalties for manufacturers and distributors who have been affected by wildfires.

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