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A Guide to Working with Insurance Adjusters After a House Fire

October 13, 2020

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Knowing how to deal with an insurance adjuster after a house fire can make the entire process less stressful for a homeowner, and help ensure a maximum payout from your insurer. While a public adjuster works for you, the policyholder, and negotiates with the insurance company for the largest settlement possible, they also rely on you for accurate, detailed information about your claim.

Understanding a little bit about public adjusters, including when to hire one and how they manage the procedure of negotiating with insurers, can also make it easier to work with them. To prepare you for your initial phone call and everything that follows, consider some quick yet comprehensive tips for how to deal with an insurance adjuster after a house fire.

adjuster for fire damage and smoke

What Is an Insurance Adjuster and When Should You Hire One?

First note that a public insurance adjuster works for you, the policyholder, to negotiate with the insurer and get the highest claim possible without having to take the insurer to court! A public adjuster typically gets paid a certain percentage of the entire amount they secure for you; this percentage might adjust according to your payout, such as 10% for amounts less than $100,000 and 15% for amounts over that, as an example.

Because an insurance adjuster gets paid a percentage of the settlement they secure, they work very hard to get the largest payout possible! You also don’t need to pay them out of your pocket, before work begins.

It’s recommended you hire such an adjuster if you feel your insurance company is not offering a fair settlement or if you’re struggling to file the claim properly. A house fire claim is often difficult to file properly and completely, as you might need to itemize a number of personal items and other expenses incurred after the fire, such as cleanup and odor neutralizing.

What to Do Immediately After you Experience a House Fire

The first thing to do after a house fire is filing a claim with your insurer; even if you know immediately that you’ll be hiring a public adjuster, most insurance companies require notification or filing of a claim “as soon as reasonably possible.” Once you and your family are safe, at least call your agent and notify him or her of the fire and ask them the next step to the filing, if you’re not sure how to go about it.

Also, most insurers require their policyholder to do everything reasonably possible to “mitigate damage,” meaning keep that damage from getting worse. After a house fire, avoiding added damage might mean boarding up windows to keep out rain or snow as well as potential thieves, removing personal items so they don’t absorb residual water used by firefighters, and the like.

Additional Steps to Take After a House Fire

  • A homeowner would also do well to start itemizing all personal items damaged beyond repair, and especially before you start boxing up items or throwing anything away! This includes kitchen appliances, furniture, electronics, clothing, and so on.
  • Note as many details as possible on this list, including an item’s age, size (such as for kitchen appliances, mattresses, etc.), approximate value, manufacturer, and place of purchase. Use a spreadsheet to make this record easier and keep things organized! Take photos of the home’s damage overall as well as photos of individual items.
  • You might also find as many receipts for damaged items as possible; if you don’t have paper receipts, check your bank statements, as these should still have a record of items you purchased with a credit or debit card. Obviously, you won’t be able to remember every detail for everything you’ve lost in the fire; however, the more information and photos you can provide, the easier it will be for your public adjuster to research your claim and negotiate with your insurer.

 

insurance adjuster discussing claim after house fire

 

How to Deal With an Insurance Adjuster After a House Fire

Now that you’ve done your due diligence to protect your property after a house fire, it’s time to call a public adjuster! Note that you’re not obligated to use any adjuster recommended by your insurance agency, so ensure you find one with a solid reputation of securing high payouts for their customers and that has worked with your insurer in the past.

  • An insurance adjuster will want to review your homeowner’s insurance policy, so have that ready for them as well as the name and contact information of your agent.
  • Insurance adjusters typically investigate claims on their own, so they’ll also want to review copies of any police reports you’ve filed.
  • Your insurance adjuster will also want to tour your damaged home; don’t be offended if they go through every room and space, as they know that heat and smoke damage more than just the room where the fire occurred.
  • A public adjuster will often inspect items you’re listing on your claim, including damaged appliances and furniture.
  • A public adjuster will also need to note additional expenses you’ve incurred with a house fire beyond actual losses, such as water damage cleanup services or a hotel bill.

What Do Claims Adjusters Look For?

A public adjuster needs to know everything possible about your house fire and its resultant damage if they’re going to negotiate properly with your insurer. As they tour your home, they will note the extent of damage as well as needed cleanup, such as smoke stains on the ceiling, water trapped in carpeting, and other issues homeowners often overlook.

Public adjusters also understand long-term costs associated with house fires, and which homeowners might forget to include on their claim. For example, a home might need mold remediation, to protect it from mold that often results from the copious amounts of water used to extinguish a fire! Odor neutralizing services remove bothersome smells that tend to linger long after a fire is addressed.

Homeowners also might not realize that many expenses incurred because of the fire are often covered under their insurance policy. For example, if you’ve had smoke-damaged clothes dry cleaned, that cleaning bill might be included in your claim. Keep track of any expense you’ve incurred due to the fire even after hiring a public adjuster, including cleaning bills, tabs from restaurants you’ve had to visit because your kitchen is unusable, a moving service that helped box up and remove undamaged items in the way of your water repair company, and the like.

How Do You Negotiate With an Insurance Adjuster?

A policyholder doesn’t negotiate with their own public adjuster, as he or she works for you and gets paid a percentage of what they secure from your insurer, as said. You might, however, consider some tips on how to make their job easier when it comes to negotiating with your insurer!

One common point of contention between policyholders and insurers is a claim for items that can be cleaned and repaired versus those that need disposal. Don’t get overeager when it comes to your list of items needing replacement, perhaps assuming that your policy will reimburse you for anything and everything in the home touched by the fire.

In the same way, use caution about restoration companies that approach you after a fire, and ensure you work closely with any water or fire damage cleanup contractor you do hire. He or she might try to pressure you to sign off on unnecessary cleaning and repairs, only for you to find out that the work is not covered by your insurance policy.

To ensure smooth negotiations with your insurance company, communicate very closely with your public adjuster about any such expense or work you’re considering. While he or she can’t make decisions for you, they will be very familiar with your policy and insurance agent, so they can offer cautions about claiming certain items and keep you from common mistakes that make negotiations more difficult overall.

negotiate with insurance adjuster

What Happens If You Reject a Settlement Offer?

If your public adjuster returns from negotiating with your agent with what you feel is a lowball offer, or that doesn’t cover everything lost in a fire, remember that he or she gets paid a percentage of what they secure! In turn, they’ve no doubt done everything possible to get the highest offer. Before you assume you made a wrong choice in hiring them, discuss your options.

As an example, your adjuster might explain that your losses actually exceed your policy coverage, which is especially common if you haven’t updated your insurance in many years. If you purchased new kitchen appliances, expensive clothes, and other items but didn’t add them to your policy individually or increase its coverage accordingly, your personal losses might then exceed your insurance coverage.

If your policy does offer more coverage than the settlement you’ve been offered and your public adjuster cannot secure a higher offer, you might then need to take your insurance company to court. Note that a public adjuster is not an attorney and he or she cannot offer legal advice when it comes to your insurance claim. Be prepared to hire a separate attorney to manage your claim; this will typically mean more time before you get a payout from your insurer.

Related Questions

Should you always hire a public adjuster after a house fire?

If you believe your insurance company has acted in good faith and that you’ve received a fair compensation offer for expenses and losses after a house fire, you probably don’t need to hire a public adjuster. This is especially true if the fire was small and losses minimal.

How long does it take for a public adjuster to secure a settlement after a house fire?

There is no “one size fits all” answer as to how long a public adjuster takes to secure a settlement after a house fire, as they need to do their due diligence in reviewing the claim and then wait for your insurer to respond. Most claims take between 90-120 days, on average.

This information is proudly presented by Melo Property Claims. If you still have questions about how to deal with an insurance adjuster after a house fire or need a public adjuster to negotiate with your insurance company for you, call the pros at Melo Property Claims. We are experts at securing the largest payouts possible for claimants and work with all major insurance providers. For the maximum settlement after a house fire or other loss, call the pros at Melo Property Claims today.

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