Tips for Filing Fire Insurance Claims

As wildfires continue to rage throughout Southern California, insurance companies are mobilizing teams to help fire victims deal with claims and start rebuilding their homes. Travelers is just one company sending representatives to shelters in the San Diego area to help locals start filing claims.

Even if you don't have all the information or paperwork, insurance experts are advising Californians to file a claim now to get the process started. Following is a tip sheet from the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group, and Travelers on what you need to know to if your house is damaged by fire.

Capture video or photos of the fires? Upload them now at i-CAUGHT.

If my house burns down, will my insurance company pay to have it rebuilt?

The typical homeowner's policy covers damage due to wind, fire and lightning. So if your home has been completely destroyed by a fire or if the roof has been burned, your insurance company will pay to have your home rebuilt or to have the roof replaced. It will also pay if flames and smoke have damaged any other part of your home.

What about the contents of my house?

In addition to paying for damage to the dwelling, homeowners' policies cover other structures on the premises, such as a garage or tool shed, as well as damage to your furniture, clothes, appliances and other personal possessions up to the limits of your policy.

What information is needed to report a claim?

Each claim is different, but information your insurance company will likely need include:

Date of loss

Type of loss or damage

Location of damage

Any related injuries

Others involved

Condition of the home

Description of damaged contents

Whether or not temporary repairs are necessary

A police report

Who will pay for temporary housing?

Your insurance company might cover your housing expenses, depending on your plan. These "additional living expense coverage" or "loss of use coverage" options will pay for similar housing while repairs are being made to your home or if you permanently relocate. Typically, you need to seek reimbursement for expenses incurred. Also keep in mind that payments do no cover lost wages or earnings.

Should I file a police report?

Yes. In many cases, a police report is required when reporting a claim.

What about receipts?

The more documentation you have, the better. Assuming such documents survived the fire, receipts, owner's manuals, warranty cards, appraisals, photographs or the original boxes that the items came in will all help.

What other documents should I compile?

Keep an accurate record of all temporary repair expenses such as bills or material receipts so that you can add the amount to your claim. Also, keep an accurate record of any and all expenses incurred to be considered for possible reimbursement. Do not make any permanent repairs until the insurance adjuster has had a chance to review the damage.

What is a deductible?

A deductible is the amount you agree to pay as your part of the loss. The insurance company will pay for the amount over the deductible if it is a covered loss. For example, if the covered claim is $2,000 and your deductible is $500, you pay $500 and your insurance company pays the $1,500 balance.

How do I figure out what I've lost?

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