Fire Insurance Claims -
by Joe Brennan
The majority of policyholders who have ever been a victim of a fire or has suffered damages to their property (home, business, etc.) from fire insurance claims will make costly mistakes during and after the claim has been closed or settled. Unfortunately there always seems to be one grossly expensive mistake that most all policyholders make. It's so simple that it's hard to believe that people don't even realize they have done it. Can you even imagine that many policyholder's who have suffered a fire will rely solely on the insurance company adjuster's opinion? They allow their adjuster to inspect their property, evaluate and process the claim, and create an estimate for the entire fire insurance claim... Without Any Questions. Imagine people like doctors, lawyers, accountants, willfully accepting the insurance adjuster's own opinion without obtaining any comparisons, numbers from other contractors, or consulting a fire insurance claim professional. This is, without-a-doubt, the most costly mistake people will ever make in their entire life.
As if it's not bad enough that your property was destroyed by fire, to then rely on someone else - who is not really there for you - to visit the property, inspect the damages, generate PROPER value, and then completely trust that they have your best interest in mind...
Yet, we see policyholders that are in a state of shock allow this very thing to happen all across the world, every day of the year. It's hard to imagine that most people have human instincts to count their "change" from a cashier at the store or diligently review dinner bills, line by line, to make sure the waiter or waitress did not bill them for additional items. We all do it. We're sure to go out of our way to track and count life's little chump change. However, when it comes to fire insurance claim damages exceeding tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, without any questions we rely on the insurance company.
No one else comes close to knowing your property like you do. With all that is needed to properly prepare and configure the damages associated with a fire insurance claim, almost in all instances, items are missed and forgotten during the claims process. Especially if this is completed by someone other than you. The insurance adjusters don't know all there is to know about your building, your personal property, or the quality of your contents ( clothing, furniture, etc. ) like you do. How could another person possibly be as accurate as you when calculating such items? Further, simply because the insurance adjuster visits the property for an inspection, in no way shape or form means that they are a professional contractor, builder, or qualified and certified in fire and water damage restoration and evaluation.
During the review of thousands of both closed and open claims, we find that both insurance companies and policyholders unknowingly and often miss hidden damages. The truth is - that in almost all instances; it's a good idea to have a qualified professional review all fire damage claims. One should seek a fire insurance claims appraiser, a fire insurance claim consultant, or a fire consulting firm.
Too often policyholders are under the impression that if they deposit a check received from the insurance company into their bank account - the claim is settled and closed. This could not be any further from the truth. The fact are; that in most states policyholders have 3-years to make claims from the time the damages occurred. Claimants can even ADD items to an existing claim. So, the review of claims to be sure you have been fully compensated can occur, during the process of an existing claim or even after the claim has been closed and settled. More money from your claim is also obtainable even if your property or building has been removed, torn down, or demolished.
Yes, even if your claim has been settled and you have deposited the checks, or your building has been torn down and demolished, you can still obtain more insurance proceeds if the damages were not assessed properly. In many cases, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of more dollars. Even when a policyholder believes they have received a fair settlement... they usually have not.
It's up to YOU, the policyholder, to do your part to protect yourself. Here are tips to help individuals with fire insurance claims. There are helpful tips for policyholders in the middle of their claim - as well as help for those with claims that are closed.
1. Document The Building Damages: Take time yourself to inspect and document the damages to your property. Take pictures and measurements of all rooms in your home or building. Take an overview picture of the room and then some close-up pics of the ceilings, walls, windows, doors, floors, etc. of that room. Photograph your way around the building and each room to your left (clock wise). Be sure to take an overview picture before entering the next room. Be it, a room, closet, or hall. This will allow for an easier way to organize what pictures belong to what rooms. An example would be; Take overview picture of the master bedroom, then work your way from the ceiling to the floor. Take an overview picture of the ceiling and then zoom in for close-up damages on the ceiling. Continue by taking an overview picture of each wall, followed by close-up pictures of damage on walls. Continue this same process with the doors, windows, and floors. Just before you enter the next bedroom, hall or closet, the very first picture will be an overview, and so on. (No pictures or close-ups of any clothing, furniture, or electronics yet, just the room pics.)
1. Obtain Documentation Of The Building: Insurance adjusters visit the property to gather measurements and photos of the damage. If you have no photographs yourself, or a limited amount of pics - request that the insurance company send you all photographs that were taken by the adjuster. You should also request the complete estimate and diagram/sketch they used to arrive at the square footage and repair numbers. This type of documentation will be critical for you to have, as well as if the need arises for the fire insurance claim appraiser you choose.
2. Document The Contents Damages: Next you will want to visit each room, hall, and closet again. However, for this go around you will be collecting the inventory of all contents in the rooms. In the same way we photographed the rooms; you will take an overview photograph of each individual piece of furniture, each set of shoes, each individual pair of pants, shoes, etc. After each individual overview is taken you will then take close-up photographs of the damage to that individual item as well. (Like water stains, smoke, or burn marks, etc.) List each individual item onto a Contents inventory Form. ( You can request one for free by Contacting Us ) The say way we took the photos of the rooms and write the list will also help organize them. For Example; Take an overview photograph of a room prior to entering. Let's say your first room is the living room. Take an overview and then proceed around the room clockwise, to your left. Picture and list each item on left wall, then each wall after, until you return to the doorway where you began. It is very important that you do not bounce around the rooms. This helps keep the items and your list organized and ensures items will not be left out, forgotten or totally missed. After each individual item of the living room has been listed and photographed, continue to the next room. Again, you will start with the overview photograph of that new room. This also organizes the contents by the rooms they were in. Just as important is to list the names of the rooms at the top on each page of the list. The pictures and the lists are now both organized in sequential order with each other.
The insurance adjuster has taken photos of your contents during their inspection as well. If you have no photos yourself, or minimal photos - then request all photos taken by the adjuster of your contents. You should also request the complete detailed contents inventory they have written to arrive at their numbers. This documentation will be useful for the fire insurance claim consultant you choose.
3. Review Of Your Policy: Fire claim victims should take the time to and review their insurance policy. Most policyholders don't even know basic information, like; How much building coverage do they carry? How much contents (furniture, clothing, etc.) coverage? How much they have to stay in a hotel, to rent a home or furniture? Surprisingly enough, many policyholders have no idea about any of this. In most cases this documentation has been burned in the fire. In such cases; policyholders can visit with their agent and request a "certified true copy" of their full policy. It's also recommended to ask the agent to explain how much coverage you hold on your property.
3. Obtain Copy Of Your Policy: Contact your insurance company and request a certified copy of your "FULL" insurance policy, including the Declarations page. This documentation will be useful for the fire insurance claim consultant you choose.
4. Consult With Professionals: The adjusters visit damaged properties, inspect fire damages, and conclude estimates of the amount of damages a fire has incurred. It's extremely important that policyholders have such a process completed for themselves as well. Think about it; how do policyholders really know the insurance company's adjusters are doing their jobs in the correct manner? Should policyholders be willing to just give up tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars - without being sure? It is the adjusters job to explain all the fire insurance claim coverage that is available. However, this type information is usually withheld. Sometimes it's withheld on purpose, and at other times it's also withheld on purpose (Was that a misprint? Withholding information from policyholders is usually withheld until they actually ask. More often than not; such withholding happens on purpose.) It is your home or building, it is your insurance repair money, and it is your policy - the one you have PAID for. You are responsible for educating yourself. You need to ensure you're receiving the complete compensation you're entitled to. It's up to he policyholder to seek and hire the fire insurance claim appraiser or consultant. You need to consult someone who can complete a full review, looking out for your interests, and diligently review your insurance company's documents of your claim. You deserve to know if you obtained a fair shake or not.
4. Consult A Independent Insurance Appraiser: Have you been provided with a fair settlement? How is a person sure they have unless they consult with a professional? Anyone who is not 100% sure if they have obtained fair and full settlement from an insurance company, owes it to themselves to investigate. If policyholders have collected and reviewed all the docs and photos that are listed above; they have sufficient documentation to consult the opinion of an independent appraiser and insurance professional. A professional review of your claim documentation is all an independent insurance appraiser needs to advise if you were treated fairly. To consider leaving yourself in the dark, with no flashlight in sight, without knowing if you're forfeiting tens of thousands and/or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the insurance company's pocket - doesn't make much sense at all. The minimal fee it would take to understand where you stand is a very tiny cost to pay. Compare that same tiny cost to a large chunk of insurance funds that you weren't even aware existed... is a no-brainer.
( Getting help is easier than you think. We provide a no cost review of any present or closed insurance files. Call for your Free Consultation at any time
919-669-9111. Or Contact Us by email.)
The reasons are clear and simple. The facts are this, the adjusters work directly for the insurance company, where the fire claims appraiser or consultant works directly for you. You already made the right choice by making sure you were properly insured. It is now up to you to continue with the next steps. That is to research that you have properly compensated for the policy you paid for.
If you are unsure if you are being treated fairly with your claim, we can review your documentation at no-cost. Free Consultation - Get Your Questions Answered at
Our independent appraisers exceed in their knowledge of the insurance appraisal process, are experts as independent, competent, dispute appraisers, and are available to represent the facts of the loss on your behalf. To execute the job as an independent appraiser properly, not only should one be educated in the appraisal process, but should also be qualified to review the differences in the claim and find additional damages neither party considered before. Our extensive experience with building repairs, building materials, construction, and the process of insurance claim disputes qualifies us as a choice above all. We have extensive knowledge of insurance claims handling, estimating insurance claims damages that are a result of Fire, Water, Smoke, Wind, Toronto, and Hurricanes. We have the knowledge and expertise to prepare complex claims for homes, commercial buildings, and personal property (contents, furniture, clothing, etc.), and can work professionally with the Appraisal Panel to determine a realistic amount of loss for your claim.
(919) 669-9111. Continue below to for more information about our claims dispute process.
Step 1: Step one of our independent appraiser process is to collect as much documentation and data that is available for the claim being disputed. We will collect copies of the insurance company's estimates, the policyholder's estimates, contractor's estimates, as well as any other documents that's available. We will inspect and vigorously review each document line-by-line for discrepancies and differences.
Step 2: Our independent appraiser process will continue with a complete and thorough inspection of the property that has been damaged. This thorough inspection will be conducted piece by piece for contents claims and room by room for structure claims (provided any items or rooms remain). We will conduct this inspection with the two different estimates that are being disputed. With all estimates in-hand during the inspection we can easily determine if either estimate has missed items to be addressed and/or if either estimate is excessive.
Step 3: The independent appraiser inspection will include between 50 to 300 photos (depending on size of the loss and the extent of damages). The photos will support our findings and prove the damages. The photos are taken in a manner that supports your property and protects your position of whether property can be saved, repaired, or will require replacement.
Step 4: Many rooms or possibly the entire building may be damaged beyond recognition. In these cases we will conduct an interview with the owners of the property to confirm room layouts, types of wall and floor finishes, electrical items, cabinetry, and more. We will consult and interview both the policyholder and insurance claims adjuster to determine discrepancies. This type of questions and answer session will paint a clear picture of the TRUE value of the damages. The proper value of the claim depends on it's accuracy.
Step 5: All the data collected during our independent appraisal process will then be programmed into Xactimate estimating software. Xactimate configures and displays the data in the exact format that most insurance companies require. Line by line, piece by piece, the exact square feet of drywall, paint, wallpaper, carpet, etc., will be calculated for a real and accurate cost to settle the claim. In fact, Xactimate is used by more than 70% of insurance companies.
Any items that are in question will be reviewed by our group of engineers, building inspectors, or contractors as additional documentation to support the true repairs. Foundations, brick, support beans, or electrical may require removal and may not meet current building codes. These professionals can advise on ways to keep these types of materials or why they will require replacement.
Step 6: After all this has been completed we will meet with the other parties appraiser and discuss each others findings. In some cases an agreement cannot be reached between the two appraisers. In the event this happens, the two appraisers will submit their differences to the Insurance Appraisal Umpire.
We provide independent insurance appraisal and insurance dispute services to both insurance companies and policyholders. Choose the method that is right for you.
Policyholders or Their Representatives: If you are a policyholder or you represent an insured and are looking for an independent appraiser, please continue here.
Insurance Companies: If you work at an insurance company and would like to speak to us about your appraisal needs, please Contact Us Here. or call (919-669-9111) to discuss any appraisal issues you may have.
We provide independent appraiser services in North Carolina (NC), South Carolina
(SC), Georgia (GA), Florida (FL), Alabama (AL), Mississippi
(MS), Louisiana (LA), Texas (TX), Virginia (VA), Maryland
(MD), Delaware (DE), Washington DC, Pennsylvania (PA), New Jersey (NJ), New York (NY),
Ohio (OH), Kentucky (KY), Indiana (IN), and Oklahoma (OK). If you are in need of any type of Insurance Appraisal Services as outlined; please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here
to help you in any way we can.