House fires can range in severity from total loss to minor damages. Regardless of the severity, filing an insurance claim is likely among the first steps after getting people and pets to safety.
When there’s a total loss following a fire, it’s almost simpler to file an insurance claim. After all, there’s no question of what’s damaged and what’s still usable. But in the case of a partial loss, there’s far more required to determine what needs repair or replacement.
Look for hidden damage in partial loss fires
Oftentimes, fires cause damages that aren’t immediately detectable by the eye. There may be issues below the surface or otherwise out of view. Other damage, such as with poisonous residues, may not be perceptible by the eye at all.
For these reasons, it’s vital to have your home thoroughly inspected by a professional who knows what things to look for following a partial loss fire. A good inspection that meets the standards for an insurance claim will include examining the following areas of your home, as applicable:
- Air quality
- Heating system
- Interior walls and framing
- Plumbing system
- Structural steel or iron
While the insurance company will likely send its own inspector, it’s advisable to have additional professionals make sure no damage is missed. Contractors or structural engineers are qualified for most parts of the inspection. If air quality is a concern, look for a certified industrial hygienist. These costs are often covered by homeowner’s insurance.
Thoroughly document the damage
While inspectors take copious notes about damage and may take some photos, it’s always a good idea to photograph (and even videotape) all damage yourself. That way, there is no question that the photos exist or of their quality. Save these photos as potential evidence until the claim is satisfactorily settled.
If the fire damaged any of your landscaping, your photos may be the only ones to prove issues. The inspectors are concerned with the home, and the state of your bushes and ornamental grasses are not within their expertise.
A good insurance claim tip for partial loss fires is to bear in mind that many policies state your home should be returned to a “uniform and consistent” appearance. If only half of a wall is damaged, for instance, and the paint color can’t be matched, then you are entitled to have everything painted anew. The same holds true for tile, siding, flooring, and anything else that takes up a significant area of your home.
Be persistent in getting your needs met
As partial loss fires often allow homeowners to remain in their homes while repairs and replacements are made, the insurance claims often get placed on the back burner. Insurance claims workers often have large caseloads, and there’s a tendency to prioritize cases with more severe damage. Regardless of the severity of the fire damage, homeowners are entitled to reasonably swift handling of insurance claims.
If you sense your claim is not a priority, don’t sit around doing nothing. Make calls or write letters to make it known that your claim is important and neglecting it prevents you from returning to normal life. Such contact can be done politely yet firmly.