How Do Fire Insurance Claims Work in Florida?

If you’ve been the victim of a house fire, it can be hard to know where to begin picking up the pieces. You need to file a house fire insurance claim, but what are the next steps, and how do you go about it? This is a stressful time, but you’re not alone. You have plenty of people there to help you along the way and your insurance provider should be one of them. 

There are two main types of claims for home insurance: first-party claims and third-party claims. The former are filed by policyholders and are related to damage to personal property or the home itself. The latter are filed by those not involved in the policy who suffered injuries or loss due to the event. 

Here’s what you need to know about how fire insurance claims work in Florida and the steps that you need to take. 

What Is Fire Insurance?

Fire insurance is coverage that is specifically designed to protect your home in the event of a fire. Some home insurance policies include fire damage as part of the covered incidents while others will require an additional rider or policy for fire protection and coverage. However it’s written, fire insurance usually has four areas that are covered:

  1. The main dwelling
  2. Other structures
  3. Personal property 
  4. Loss of use (having to rent a home, stay in a hotel, etc.)

Smoke damage and structural damage are covered by the first part of this policy. If there is damage to a detached garage, shed, or barn, that will come under the second area of coverage. You will also have a separate section that covers personal property, including the dollar amount of coverage available. If you have $50,000 in personal property protection, that means that you are covered for up to $50,000 in reimbursement to replace your belongings. 

Finally, there is loss of use coverage, which is commonly needed in situations where there is a house fire. Loss of use pays for things like a hotel stay while your home is being repaired, renting a property for extended repairs or rebuilds of six months or longer, coverage for office space if you used your home for an office in addition to a residence, and so forth. 

Most people have what is called an “all-risk” policy. This means that unless there is a specific exclusion, all potential risks are covered. Most insurance providers offer home insurance coverage for things like:

  • Accidental damage by external forces
  • Implosion or explosion of propane tanks or gas lines
  • Aircraft damage
  • Riots, strikes, civil commotion, or acts of terrorism
  • Impact damage from vehicles, animals, etc. 
  • Storm damage 
  • Subsidence, landslips, and rockslides

Obviously, intentional fires (arson) are not included in the coverage, and trying to file a claim for such a fire can result in criminal charges of insurance fraud in addition to arson charges. 

If you’re not sure what kind of coverage you have, or whether these coverage options take care of your needs, feel free to ask for a policy or insurance claim review from an independent expert. 

Accidental Fires vs. Acts of Nature 

There’s also an important differentiation between accidental fires that occur in the home and “natural” fires such as wildfires or acts of nature that cause a fire—the latter is sometimes much more difficult to get coverage for, but there are often separate policies available. Some homes, such as those in the wildfire-prone areas of California, may be required to have wildfire insurance protection in addition to standard home insurance. This is less of a concern in the humid, swamp-filled Sunshine State, but it’s still important to know. 

What To Do After a House Fire 

Once the fire is out and everyone is safe, the very first thing that you need to do is to call your insurance agent or policy provider and notify them of the claim. Even if you are unsure of your coverage or whether you will need other assistance, call them and report the incident so that you can figure out what’s covered and what to expect. 

House fires can cause a lot of damage in a short amount of time. Smoke damage is the most commonly reported issue, with actual fire damage and structural damage resulting from the fire following close behind. Almost all house fires include some kind of property damage or personal property reimbursement, too. 

Once you contact the insurance company and determine whether you have a claim worth filing, you will need to initiate the claim process. Then, you will want to make a list of everything that burned or was damaged by smoke, water, or other elements in the fire. Take pictures of what you can. Make sure that you have receipts or value declarations for high-dollar items so that you can prove their value, too. Write down everything that you can see but don’t start going through containers and boxes until an adjuster has cleared the scene and finished their inspection. 

Take photos and videos, as mentioned, even if all they show is a bunch of charred items that are indiscernible. Don’t throw anything away until you talk to the insurance company and complete the claims process. They will want to do an inspection and in some cases, will even determine what you should do with the damaged materials or whether certain materials are “damaged enough” for replacement or if they can be repaired. 

If you are renting, you will also want to contact your landlord immediately to inform them of the situation so that they can file their own insurance claim. Renters will also only be able to claim a reimbursement in their renters’ policy for covered items, including personal property and loss of use. Structural damage will be the responsibility of the landlord and the home insurance policy. 

You will also need to get estimates for repairs or replacements, so be sure to start asking around for referrals as soon as possible. If you need a complete tear-down and rebuild, you will want to hire a company that’s experienced with this type of work. If you are restoring the existing property, you’ll want to hire a team that has experience with fire damage restoration to ensure that the smoke and water damage is properly cleaned and the home is sanitized and safe to live in. 

Understanding Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Value 

One of the biggest areas of confusion for people who file home insurance claims related to fire or other serious damage is the difference between replacement value and cash value. 

Actual cash value refers to the depreciated value of the items at the time of their destruction. For example, if you had a two-year-old acoustic guitar that cost you $500, its actual cash value is probably closer to $200. 

Replacement cost is what it would actually cost to buy the item and replace it at the time of loss. Using the guitar example from above, you could search the Internet and find that the same guitar now retails for $700, so that’s what the insurance company should pay. 

This is why it’s important to understand replacement cost, but also to include it on your home insurance policy. Otherwise, you’ll only get paid a discounted amount for all the damage based on the depreciated value of the things that you own. 

Take, for example, the rising cost of building supplies in light of the pandemic. Now that people are paying as much as 50% more for some building materials, having replacement cost coverage on the policy could make or break being able to rebuild. If you only get a depreciated value, you won’t be able to fully restore your home to its original operational function or style. And if you don’t realize this until after the fire has happened, you’re out of luck because you can’t change the policy at this point. That’s why it’s helpful to understand fire insurance and be prepared from the beginning. 

What’s Next 

The fire insurance claim process takes time. In Florida, companies have up to 90 days from the filing of the claim to pay, unless they request a time for further investigation. In the case of fire claims, however, things don’t always go as planned. It could take months to get an accurate settlement offer and gather all the documents needed to finish the claim process. However, if you start the process as soon as the incident happens, you’ll be better able to keep things moving. 

Filing an insurance claim for fire damage depends entirely on the cause of the fire and the type of home insurance that you have. As mentioned, some policies won’t cover wildfires or natural disasters that cause-related fire damage, so be sure to review your policy and discuss this with your insurance agent so that you get the protection that you need. 

Florida home insurance requirements usually have enough coverage to ensure that people are protected in the event of a house fire. However, fire insurance claims in Florida can get costly and they can escalate more quickly than people realize. With the right information, you’ll have a much better chance of getting the settlement that you deserve. 

Get a Professional Review of Your Fire Insurance Claim in Florida

If your home insurance company is dragging its feet or if you want to make sure that you’re getting a fair settlement with your fire insurance claim in Florida, contact the team at On Target Claims for a free claim review. We can look over your claim, check out the details, and make sure that you get the maximum settlement in an expedited fashion. Contact us today to learn more. 

Request a Free Claim Review

Find out how we assist you to recover the
maximum on your insurance claim