6 tips to filing a fire and smoke damage insurance claim
With the winter months and holidays comes an increase in fire and smoke damage claims in Wisconsin. Fireplaces are being stoked, families are gathering to cook more, and the risk for an insurance claims spike. In fact, on Thanksgiving alone, the National Fire Protection Association reported that in 2019 1,400 home cooking fires were reported to U.S. fire departments, reflecting a 228 percent increase over the daily average. If you find yourself with a fire or smoke damage claim on your home or business, here are a few helpful tips from the insurance claim attorneys at MGW Law.
- 1. Document losses
One of the first things you’ll need to file your claim is proof. Take photos and videos of your home and any personal belongings that are damaged or destroyed. If the damage is changing over time, due to weather or other factors, make sure to continue to document since this could impact your claim. Documentation is critical in receiving an accurate claim payout.
- 2. Secure your property
If the fire damage was severe, your home may be exposed to vandals or burglars who can easily get inside causing further damage. Make sure to board up your home or business so it is secure and vandals can’t cause further issues.
- 3. Meet with the adjuster
When the insurance representative comes to view the damage, make sure to be there. This is critical to ensuring your claim is documented properly, nothing is missed and that they understand the extent of the damage. Document what you both see, ask questions about your policy, and the claim and keep notes to help track the process.
- 4. Get multiple repair estimates
While the insurance company may recommend a vendor to give you an estimate for repair, it is critical to get multiple estimates from reputable contractors you contact yourself. Often insurance companies have direct relationships with their vendors which could potentially contaminate the estimate causing it to be inaccurate. Additional estimates at the very least will give you peace of mind and at the most save you time and money.
- 5. Pay for professional cleaning
It can be unsafe for you to clean your home after a fire. Soot and ash can have lifelong effects on your health and professional cleaners have special equipment and protection to safeguard them against smoke damage in your home. Most insurance policies will cover professional cleaning costs but check your policy to make sure.
- 6. Ask for advance on your claim
If the fire damage is bad enough that you need to leave your home and find temporary housing, it’s reasonable to ask for an advance on your claim to cover these unexpected costs. While this is not a guarantee, they may be willing to give a portion of the claim in advance to ease the burden.