Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Assistance Available for Fire Victims

With displaced residents of the weekend fires now returning to their neighborhoods, several home and business owners are now finding themselves facing dozens of questions before they rebuild.

To help navigate the insurance recovery process, the Insurance Information Network of California offers the following advice to those whose property has been damaged or destroyed:

  • Call your insurance agent or insurance company and report the damage. Most homeowner policies cover additional living expenses and will advance money if there is a need for temporary shelter, food or clothing. For insurance claim contact numbers, visit the IINC Web site at www.iinc.org.
  • If your home or business has been damaged but not destroyed, make temporary repairs where possible to prevent any further damage. Save receipts for supplies and materials purchased as the insurance company will reimburse for any reasonable expenses for these temporary repairs.
  • Prepare for the adjuster’s inspection. Take the time to inspect the property in advance and note anything that you would like the adjuster to see. Provide the adjuster with a list of the damaged items, photographs, receipts, bills and any other relevant paperwork. Doing so will help the adjuster correctly determine the value of destroyed property. Information on how to create an inventory and free inventory software is also available at the IINC Web site at www.iinc.org.
  • Maintain a recovery diary or log of all phone calls, emails and meetings about the insurance claim.
  • Be wary of those seeking your business. Contractors, public adjusters and attorneys may all try to get you to sign on the bottom line. Check licenses of contractors and public adjusters with the State Contractors License Board (www.cslb.ca.gov) and the California Department of Insurance (www.insurance.ca.gov). Be aware that if you sign a contract with an outside claims intermediary, your insurer is precluded from working with you directly. In addition, intermediaries’ fees in most instances are not paid by insurers; they are incurred and paid by policyholders.
To view a copy of the brochure, “Settling Insurance Claims After a Disaster,” visit the IINC Web site at http://www.iinc.org/articles/282/1/Settling-Claims-After-A-Disaster/Page1.html.

Photo: Courtesy of Reuters

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