By Mark Goldwich
|Image courtesy of www.fire.ca.gov|
Although we’re thankfully past hurricane season, those of us in Florida and other hurricane proneregions of the U.S. have again fared better than predicted, we can not afford to let our guard down. As temperatures drop, a new disaster season begins – that of home fires. Whether from space heaters, fireplaces, candles, Christmas tree lights, cooking accidents, or a variety of other sources, the end of hurricane season on November 30th seems to mark the beginning of home fire season.
Just as with hurricane season, you need to have an action plan for fire season. This involves detecting fires, putting out fires, escape routes, alternative meeting locations, calling assignments, disaster kits (for people and animals), temporary living arrangements, disaster cash, and of course, plans for documenting your claim to your insurance company.
Did you know that it’s your responsibility to prove to the insurance company what you own if your home should burn to the ground? You may pay for $100,000 (or much more) in personal property coverage, but you may only receive payment for what you can both remember and prove that you owned.
I once had a client that lost well over $100,000 worth of belongings when her 2-story home of over 40 years burned to the ground. Tragically, her husband perished in the fire. Would you believe her “top-notch” (but not so “neighborly”) insurance company would only pay her for about $40,000 in property because that is all she could remember in her traumatized state of mind?
This is why I highly recommend you consider photographing, filming and listing all your https://www.facebook.com/ProofOfAssets . Or contact United Policyholders at: http://www.uphelp.org/ .possessions, or at least your most valuable ones, and keep copies (with receipts, owners manuals, and appraisals) in more than one location. A safe deposit box or a fire and waterproof safe works well for this task. Another way to accomplish this is to retain a company that will do this for you. This service is quite affordable, especially when you consider how much time, money, effort and heartache it can save you to be able to document your claim. If you are local to the Jacksonville, Florida area, contact Renee English at:
The same holds true for your home itself. Building materials come in a wide range of styles and levels of quality, and the size or age of the home can have little to do with the cost or quality of the building materials used. Maybe you have high end cabinets, or wallpaper, or tile. Or maybe you upgraded when you remodeled recently. After a fire, many of these things look the same (black). The tendancy of the insurance company is to “guess” at what you had by considering the age, size, neighborhood, etc. But if you keep good records, and photos or video, you’ll stand a much better chance of recovering everything you are entitled to.
While I tend to focus on the insurance side of things, always keep in mind the very best way to avoid being victimized by your insurance company is to not have the claim in the first place. There are numerous websites that can give you tips galore for minimizing the risk of a home fire (and for safely escaping), especially around the holidays, when it is not only cold outside, but people have extra lights, candles, cooking, and so on. Use good judgement and care.
Even worse judgment is to try to capitalize on a home fire by overinflating the damages caused. Some people think that just because their home is a mess and everything is burned beyond recognition (or seems to be), that this is a good time to try and pull a fast one on the insurance company. By all means, don’t do it. Insurance companies relish the thought of catching would-be cheats, and their fraud investigators tend to be their best trained assets. Don’t give them this gift.
Remember, that when it comes to disasters not all come with names and media hype - or warning. The best time to prepare for a home fire that will probably never happen is always…now! To avoid getting burned twice, once by the fire and once by your insurance carrier, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Hire a licensed public adjuster who can help you through the process and in so doing get you everything all you deserve.
Please enjoy a happy, safe and healthy holiday season!
Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.