What You Need to Know to File Business Wildfire Damage Insurance Claims

If your business is one of the thousands in Northern California that is facing destruction and damage related to the recent wildfires, then you know that you are facing numerous responsibilities related to your business expenses, recovering your losses, rebuilding, and filing your commercial claim for insurance coverage.

Here’s what you need to do to file your claim for insurance coverage, protect your rights, and ensure that you receive the maximum compensation that is owed to you for your business losses.

Step 1: Locate and Analyze Your Policy.

Each business insurance policy will have different coverage for fire damage. Although almost all business insurance policies include coverage clauses for fire damage and destruction, commercial claims tend to be highly complex, involving multiple variables in calculating claims.

Locate a copy of your insurance policy, and use it to determine what types of damages (outlined below) are covered, and to which types you’re entitled to claim.

Step 2: Consider the Types of Damage

There are several types of damage that can be suffered by a business after a fire. There’s, of course, the physical damage to the business’ property, structures and buildings. Additionally, there are business-specific valuations, including loss of inventory, cost of repair and rebuilding, supply chain interruption, inability of customers to reach your business, and loss of expected profits.

Outline the types of damage that your business is facing because of the fires, and crosscheck your policy to see what types are covered.

Step 3: Understand Your Reporting Requirements

Your business insurance policy most likely has strict "reporting requirements” that specify what you are required to document and submit to your insurer in support of your claim for damage. If you fail to meet these reporting requirements, including all of the related deadlines, it could constitute your forfeiture of coverage and your insurance company could deny your claim. These requirements should be outlined in your policy.

Step 4: Know Your Deadlines

Your insurance policy most certainly includes deadlines for submission and processing of your claims. Be sure to double-check all deadlines, and if you’re uncertain about what deadlines apply to you, contact your insurance company for confirmation of the deadlines in writing. Failure to meet any of these deadlines is serious: it could mean the forfeiture of your entire claim. If you’re struggling to meet any deadlines, contact your insurance company before it hits. Many insurance companies routinely grant extensions for deadlines—but you have to request an extension beforehand.

Step 5: Document Everything

Thoroughly document all types of the damage your business suffered, including:

  • Physical Damage: Most claims for business interruption require a direct, physical damage or loss to your business property, so this type of damage is vital to many business insurance claims. Document your physical damage in the Proof of Loss. Itemize in detail each piece of property that was damaged or destroyed, including as many specific details as possible. Supplement your written Proof of Loss with photographs and video evidence of the damaged property.
  • Business Interruption Damage: If you had to pause your business operations because of the fire, then you will also want to submit a claim for business interruption damages. These types of claims cover the loss to your business when you are forced to halt operations. You will need to show a total suspension in the operations of your business to support this type of damage.
  • Net Income Loss. Your policy may provide coverage for the loss of net income, or the profit that would have been earned if the fire hadn’t occurred.
  • Continuing Operation Expenses. These expenses include the cost of continuing your business in the wake of the fire damage and during the interim recovery period.
  • Extra Expenses. Your company may have incurred additional expenses that it would not have incurred if the fire had not occurred, such as the costs of cleaning up, repair, replacement, relocation, increased labor costs and other operational costs caused by the fire.
  • Business Mitigation Costs. There may be damages your business incurred in order to mitigate your business losses. This can include your pre-fire preparations, relocating your business, and hiring extra labor to minimize additional losses.
  • Professional Expertise Cost. Importantly, some business insurance policies consider that you need the consultation of experts when recovering your business from a disaster like these wildfires. Your policy may reimburse you for hiring professional recovery consultants, such as attorneys and accountants, who help you submit your insurance claim.

Step 6: Hire Professional Counsel

One of the most important ways to rebuild your business is to retain an attorney who has expertise in filing business loss insurance claims. Our team of insurance experts and attorneys can advise your business through every step of the recovery and claims process. We work alongside businesses of all sizes, helping them to understand the terms of their insurance policy, follow deadlines, submit detailed and comprehensive claims for damage, and dispute any denials of coverage.

We are here to protect your business rights, ensuring that you receive the maximum compensation that you and your business are owed.

We're here to help.
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