How To File a Fire Insurance Claim in Florida 

Fire insurance claims are among the most difficult that homeowners will encounter during their home ownership experience. Even small fires can be devastating and destructive. In the U.S., more than 2,500 people die and over 12,600 people are injured in house fires. The estimated damage is over $7.3 billion per year in property losses. 

Even when there is no significant loss or no loss of life, the emotional strain of a fire can be difficult for anyone. Then, if you also have to leave your home until it’s inhabitable again, that creates additional stress and financial concerns. With loss-of-use coverage, those expenses will be covered, but that’s only once you’ve filed a claim and gotten the green light that at least the early parts of the claim will be covered. 

How do you file a fire insurance claim in Florida, though? There are different steps depending on the exact circumstances of the case, but the general process is laid out below. If you’re worried about getting what you deserve from your fire insurance claim, consider reaching out to a public claims adjuster to get an objective review and see what you deserve. 

What Does Fire Insurance Cover in Florida?

Most home insurance policies will cover fire damage related to all potential risks unless it is specifically excluded, such as in the case of wildfires on some policies. For the most part, policies will cover fire related to things like:

  • Weather, such as lightning or storms that cause a fire 
  • Explosions or implosions 
  • Aircraft or vehicle damage to the property
  • Riots, strikes, malicious acts, and terrorism
  • Electrical malfunctions or wiring issues 
  • Furnace or heating-related fires 

If it can be proven that the fire was the result of deliberate action or willful negligence, the insurance company might not want to pay. For example, if you renovate your own garage, including the wiring, and then a house fire starts because of faulty wiring in the garage, the insurance company may determine that they aren’t going to pay because you didn’t hire an electrician and probably caused the fire yourself. 

On the other hand, if your home is struck by a vehicle, which then explodes and catches the house on fire, that will be covered by your home insurance policy. The fire cannot be deliberate, and if arson is suspected, all the inhabitants of the home will need to be cleared of involvement before insurance pays anything. 

The best thing to do is to know the coverage that you have, including anything that’s specifically excluded from your policy. There aren’t a lot of wildfires in Florida, so that’s not necessarily a huge concern, but house fires still happen all the time for any number of reasons. 

Here’s what you need to do. 

After the Fire is Out in Florida

The first thing on the list is obviously to extinguish the flames. That usually involves calling 911 to have the fire department respond and put out the fire. Small fires, such as a stove fire or a small trash fire, might be able to be put out by the homeowner. This is also another good reason to have a fire extinguisher or two in the home. If something goes wrong, you’ll have a better chance of stopping the fire before it spreads. 

With that said, now that the fire is out, it’s time to call the insurance company and file your claim. When you call the insurer, have your policy number ready, or other identifying information that can help them look up your policy. Then, report the full details of what happened. If there was a police or fire marshal’s report, provide that to the insurance company, as well. 

Document the Damages 

You will need to have proof of damages if the claim is going to be paid. In addition to the insurance adjuster coming out to review the claim and survey the situation, you should complete your own documentation of any damaged property or belongings. This includes:

  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Written descriptions
  • Value statements
  • Receipts for high-value items
  • Etc. 

Provide as much information as you can. If you have an existing inventory of your personal belongings, use that to document what’s been damaged or lost and update it accordingly. 

Having your own proof of damage will come in handy to ensure that the insurance company pays the settlement appropriately. If they refuse to offer a fair settlement, you can use this proof to enlist the assistance of a public insurance adjuster to fight back and get what you are rightfully owed. 

Secure the Property in Florida

If the property has been damaged by fire to the extent that it needs to be secured, that’s the next step in the process. Make sure that you board up any areas of the home that are exposed to the elements or that could invite thieves and vandals. If the home is burned to the ground, you may not be able to do much in the way of securing things besides having caution tape put around the property. 

Consult with the authorities to find out how to best secure your property after a fire based on the damage that has been caused. You should also ask your insurance company or the adjuster what they prefer or expect in terms of securing the damaged home so that you don’t risk the settlement that you are offered. 

You should also post signs that advise people to keep out so that you can show the insurance company that you are doing your due diligence to prevent further damages or injuries after a fire. If you have personal items that you need to relocate, consider putting them in storage or storing them with a family member or friend. 

Determine Habitability in Florida

Is your home liveable after the fire? This may or may not be immediately obvious. For example, a total loss house fire would mean that you need to find somewhere else to stay until you rebuild. A small kitchen fire, on the other hand, could allow you to stay in your home while repairs are made. If you will need to leave your home, you need to contact your insurance company and ask about their loss-of-use coverage policy. 

Some insurance companies will have you pay for hotel rooms, food, and other expenses related to relocating after a fire and then they will reimburse you later. Others will provide an upfront payment for these expenses, or they will cover them directly as a part of the claims process (such as booking you a hotel to stay in while a determination is made on how to proceed). 

If you want to stay in your home, make sure that you check with the fire marshal about smoke damage and other potential dangers that could be present. Only once the property is deemed clear to inhabit should you start staying there again. 

Settle the Claim and Start the Repairs or Rebuilding Process 

The insurance company is on a timeline for approving and settling your claim. Thanks to the Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights in Florida, everyone gets the right to a speedy claims process that ensures they can get back to their lives as quickly as possible. This includes settling and paying the claim within 60 days, in most cases, or paying interest on the claim for each day past 60 that the payment is outstanding. 

You may not be able to get a straightforward settlement on your claim. If the home is a total loss, for example, you might have to rebuild. That will typically be done in stages, so you may receive multiple payments from the insurance company for things like:

  • Loss-of-use expenses 
  • Emergency repairs and securing the property 
  • Long-term repairs 
  • Rebuilding expenses 
  • Reimbursement for property losses 

It’s best if you can settle the claim and get one lump sum from the insurance company that you can then use to take care of the necessary repairs or rebuilding. However, because insurers don’t want to pay more than necessary, fire claims and other large home insurance claims are divided up into smaller parts and paid as they are processed. 

Quick Tips for Success with Your Fire Damage Claim

Filing a claim quickly and completely is the best thing that you can do to help yourself get the best outcome, next to learning about the claims process and what to expect. Here are some other tips that will help you through the fire claims process. 

  • Don’t sign anything until you understand what it is and what impact your signature will have. 
  • Don’t throw anything away until you have express consent to do so. 
  • Take as many pictures, videos, and notes as you can. The more documentation you can provide, the more fully your claim will be paid. 
  • Understand ACV vs. RCV: Actual cash value, or ACV, is what the home is worth at the time of the fire with depreciation factored in, while RCV, or replacement cost value, is coverage for what it would cast to replace items in today’s money. 
  • Get multiple estimates for repairs or rebuilding needs. 
  • Enlist the help of a public insurance adjuster to get the settlement that you deserve for your fire insurance claim. 

The insurance company is looking out for you, but only as much as they absolutely have to and only after looking out for itself first. That’s why it can be helpful to have someone on your side when you are facing a fire insurance claim. 

The Bottom Line

On Target Claims has a team of public insurance adjusters who can review your claim and determine what you’re actually owed. We will use our expertise to fight for your rights and make sure that you get a fair settlement so that you can focus on getting your life back. To learn more or discuss your fire insurance claim, contact On Target Claims at 954-329-0771.

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