How the claim process works after a fire

If you have suffered a fire loss, an insurance claims representative will be quickly called to review any damage and work out a fair and equitable settlement according to the terms of the policy. If you have taken some action to prevent further damage, such as boarding up damaged windows and doors, moving personal property to a secure area, or temporarily fixing holes in roofs, keep a record of your costs. The cost of such repairs can become part of the claim.

If damage is extensive enough, the homeowners policy provides funds if you have to rent equivalent temporary living space. The policy also covers certain additional living expenses in excess of your normal living expenses. Keep an accurate record of these expenses. To help with these items, verify with your agent or claims representative that limits are available for these expenses.

You may be asked to submit a property inventory of the entire household's damaged or destroyed items. A pre-fire Household Inventory can be of great value. Consider making a room-by-room listing or a videotape of the contents of each room. Store this information in a bank safe deposit box or with your agent. If you don't have an inventory, a useful tip to help recall what was in the house is to roughly diagram each room, then recall where items were situated.

The claims representative will probably take photos of the damage and spend time with you discussing your coverages, property values, and how the claim will be handled. If you have any questions during the process, don't hesitate to ask. This is the time when it is important to work with the claims representative so you will understand the settlement.

Often, an estimate from a contractor is necessary. The claims representative might meet with your contractor to discuss how the repairs will be made, what materials to use, and the costs. When the costs and contractor are agreed upon, payment for the repairs are often made jointly to you and to the mortgage holder, if any, named on the policy. You may also authorize direct payment to the contractor doing the repairs or rebuilding the property.

If new developments arise, contact the claims representative as soon as possible. It is important for all parties involved in the settlement to share as much information as possible. In doing so, a fair and satisfactory settlement can be reached. Your agent is also an excellent resource and can assist in the claims process.

The insurance claim settlement process is designed for the prompt, fair handling of claims. The system works well, and claims representatives strive to be helpful, informative and fair.