The wildfires raging on the West Coast in 2020 mark the worst fires that California has experienced yet. Over 4 million acres have burned, and that number is likely to go up before the fires are fully under control.
While Californians are not strangers to fires, many who have lost their homes in this latest blaze may be left wondering what exactly their options are. Thankfully, wildfires are covered under most homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies. If they are not, you are usually able to purchase fire insurance separately thanks to the California FAIR plan.
However, insurance companies are rarely, if ever, on your side. More likely than not, they will try to force you to take a far lower settlement than you deserve. That being said, after a fire, there are some steps you can follow to maximize your recovery.
Be Cautious with Repairs
Starting repairs, or throwing away damaged items as soon as possible, may be your first instinct. That is understandable. After suffering loss from a fire, you will naturally want to rebuild your life as quickly as possible, and that includes fixing your home. However, part of the claims process involves an insurance adjuster coming to inspect the damage done to your property. If you begin to clean up the property or start repairing your home, the adjuster may try to shortchange you and claim that your property isn’t actually that damaged. You should call your insurance provider and ask for an inspection before performing any repairs or cleanup, as difficult as that may be.
After a fire often comes wind and rain. Clear signs of damage can be washed away by the elements. If you are unable to get the insurance adjuster to see your property quickly, it is best for you to document the damage. You can do this by taking photos or videos. Always keep in mind that the insurance adjuster will be looking for any excuse to offer you as little compensation as possible. By documenting the damage, you are protecting yourself from an insultingly low settlement.
File a Claim Quickly
Shortly after suffering such a traumatic incident, you may feel that filing a claim is beyond you. You don’t want to deal with your insurance company. You don’t want to fill out any paperwork. You need to try to heal and get on with your life. That is understandable. However, putting off filing a claim off leaves room for evidence to spoil, and for your insurance company to dispute your claim due to your long wait. It is best for you to ask for compensation as soon as possible: that way, evidence is fresh.
Never Accept the First Offer
Your insurance company is not your friend. They are in business to make a profit. They less money they give you, the more they make. As a result they will try to bully and trick you into taking an offer that is far below what you are actually owed. One of their most common tactics is giving you an insultingly low first offer. They expect you to be in a desperate situation, with a burnt-down home and bills to pay, which means you will have no choice but to accept. You may very well be in a desperate situation, but that first offer will likely never be as much as you truly need to recover from the fire. It is always in your best interest to demand more in compensation.
Contact an Attorney
Filing a claim with your insurance company right after a tragedy like losing your home to a wildfire can be overwhelming. The last thing you need is to worry about dealing with an insurance adjuster. We understand. That is why our best advice for you is to work with a skilled natural disaster attorney who can fight for you to get the compensation you deserve. For compassionate and skilled legal advice, call NordstrandBlack PC at (805) 962-2022 today.