Everything You Need to Know About Fire Insurance Claims in Florida

A house fire is a stressful and unnerving experience, to say the least. After the fire is out and you’re left staring at the damage, you might not know what the next steps should be. Filing an insurance claim for a fire starts by calling your insurance company to report the claim as soon as possible. However, there’s a lot more to it than that and you can’t always rely on your insurer to provide everything that you need. 

While insurance companies will pay claims, and some do have quite fair claims processes, most are looking out for themselves first. Therefore, homeowners need to be prepared by knowing what the claims process is like, how to proceed, and what the timeline is from start to finish. 

After a Fire: The Step-By-Step Fire Insurance Claim Process 

Because getting started on the claim and getting your home back as quickly as possible is the goal, knowing the steps of the process can be a huge help. From the time the fire is put out and the smoke clears until your home is restored and you’re back in a safe, livable environment, there’s a lot of stress. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the process alone. In addition to the steps below, you’ll want to:

  • Call the fire department to request a report. 
  • Turn off the water and gas.
  • Move pets to a secure location.
  • Pick up necessities (if possible) and secure your home. 
  • Let everyone know that you’re okay. 

Step One: Call Your Insurance Company 

As soon as everyone is safe and the fire is out, you should call your insurance company to report the fire. This will allow them to start the claims process so that you’re not dealing with it any longer than necessary. It may take a few days to a week for the fire inspector’s report to determine the cause of the fire, but in the meantime, they can process the paperwork and be waiting for the call with the final information. 

This also gives you a chance to get an idea of how helpful they’re going to be in the process. Most insurance companies are supportive and helpful during times like this, but some get lost in the paperwork and process of it all, which is an added stress that you don’t need. 

Step Two: Meet the Adjuster 

Once you’ve reported the claim to your insurance company, they will schedule a time to send an adjuster to your home to inspect the damage. You will have to ensure that the house is cleared for safe entry or the fire inspector may request to be present if there are questions about structural issues or other safety concerns. The adjuster will go through the property and survey the damage, making notes along the way. They will also ask if you have any information about the property that was damaged and advise you to make a list of items that were lost if you haven’t started one already. 

It’s important to remember that the insurance company’s adjuster represents the interests of the insurance company first and foremost. A public adjuster, on the other hand, works for you, the policyholder. You may want to consult a public adjuster on your fire claim, as they are licensed, bonded, and have the expertise to help you understand your coverage and estimate losses. 

Step Three: Document the Losses 

You may be able to start this step before the adjuster arrives, but it’s not always possible, so it may have to come after. You’ll know when it’s best to start making a list, and you can add to it as you go. Take the time to take pictures, provide value statements or receipts for high-value items, and give as much information about the property and the condition of your home before the fire. 

A public adjuster will assist in properly documenting the loss. They can even present the claim to your insurance company on your behalf, saving you the work, stress, and potential hassle of trying to prove your case.

Step Four: Get Repair Estimates 

Now that the adjuster has done their work, you can start taking steps toward making the necessary repairs. Get estimates from at least two or three contractors to ensure that you’re getting the best deal and that the repairs are done accordingly. If you are doing a complete rebuild, you will also want to research home builders and make sure that you find one that fits your needs. 

These estimates will also help you with the next step: getting an advance on your claim so you can start getting your home back. When you work with a public adjuster, they will prepare a detailed repair estimate on your behalf. In addition, you can obtain estimates from contractors that can be used as supplements to the public adjuster’s estimate. 

Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Value in Fire Insurance Claim

In a disastrous situation like a fire, understanding ACV, or actual cash value and replacement value, is essential. When you buy your home insurance policy, it will include a certain amount to cover certain items at their current value, with depreciation, factored in, which is known as actual cash value. You will also want to add replacement value coverage, which covers whatever it would cost in today’s money to replace the structure and other property in your home. 

For example, if you insure your home at its’ current value and replacement value, it could look like this:

  • Actual Cash Value (ACV): $145,000 
  • Replacement Value: $265,000

What that means is that while your home is technically only “worth” $145,000, it will cost closer to $265,000 to completely rebuild, and that’s why you want to make sure you have replacement cost coverage. Otherwise, after you hit the $145,000 mark, you’ll be paying the rest out-of-pocket. 

Important Note: Although you may have replacement cost value coverage, your insurance company will initially pay the actual cash value. They will withhold recoverable depreciation until you show proof of repairs. In Florida, you have 180 days to make repairs and provide proof to recover that depreciation. Oftentimes, your public adjuster will be able to negotiate a settlement that includes recoverable depreciation, saving you this hassle. 

What Does Fire Insurance Claim Covers in Florida? 

Fire insurance protects homeowners from a variety of costs and expenses related to a house fire. For starters, it will provide coverage for the structure itself and any necessary repairs or replacements. It will also cover personal property like furniture, clothing, valuables, and other items in the home that are damaged or completely ruined by the fire. 

Loss of use coverage is common for fire insurance, too. This is coverage that will pay for hotel rooms, rental properties, dining out, and other expenses related to not being able to be in your home during repairs or rebuilding. You can get this coverage in varying amounts. The nice thing is that insurance companies have to match your standard of living, so if your nice 2,000-square-foot home burns down and needs to be rebuilt, your family will be given a comparable rental in the meantime. 

As for the cause of fires, most insurance policies are known as “all-risk” policies—they cover anything that would cause a fire unless it is specifically excluded. If you’re not sure, you can check your policy or ask your insurance company what kind of coverage you have and if there are any limitations. 

Why are Some Fire Insurance Claims Denied in Florida?

As with any insurance claim, there is always a case (or more than one) when a claim is denied. Fire claims most commonly get denied or delayed when it is suspected that arson or fraud is involved. Coverage may also be denied if someone doesn’t have enough protection or the right type of coverage.

Much like fraud, claim misrepresentation is another reason that claims get denied—whenever people are trying to be fraudulent or misleading to the insurance company, it is a reason to be suspect, at the very least. The most unfortunate reason that fire claims get denied is that homeowners didn’t take the necessary preventative measures in the first place. 

For example, if you had wiring updated but you never got an inspection, and that wiring led to a house fire, it might be deemed your fault. In the same vein, if your gas lines were horribly outdated and damaged and that led to an explosion or house fire, the insurance company might cite you for lack of care and maintenance and deny the claim. 

What Happens If I Was Uninsured or Underinsured?

There are unfortunate situations where people only find out after the fact that they don’t have enough insurance coverage, or that they somehow let their coverage lapse and don’t have any insurance at all. If that’s the case, you might be on your own to pay for repairs or the rebuilding of your home. Some mortgage companies require you to get extra insurance and that could help cover the repairs to your home, but not all companies will help out those who haven’t kept their insurance intact. 

That’s why it’s best to make sure that your insurance premiums are paid, and current, and that your coverage has enough protection to help you, no matter what happens. You should also be familiar with any exclusions to coverage and special requirements to ensure that you’re prepared for any type of claim that may happen. 

Final Thoughts 

If you feel like your fire insurance claim was errantly denied or you aren’t getting a fair settlement, you should consider having a public adjuster review your case. The team at On Target Claims has worked to help hundreds of people get thousands of dollars back from insurance claims when they couldn’t do it on their own. Give us a call at 954-266-0541 or schedule a consultation to learn how we can help you with your Florida fire insurance claim. 

Related Content: How Long Do Home Insurance Claims Take in Florida?

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