Texas Wildfires Insurance Claim
Much of central Texas is dealing with wild fires that are consuming thousands of acres and is destroying hundreds of homes. There is no escaping a wildfire in the hill country because the landscape is filled with combustible growth everywhere due to the drought that has haunted Texas for months now. The first priority of everyone in this area should be preservation of life, things can be replaced. However, when the smoke clears and you return to your property you need to be prepared for the following situations when dealing with your insurance claim.
Scenario 1: If your home or business is completely destroyed, you will need to file a Texas wildfire insurance claim. By filing a total loos fire insurance claim, this does not mean that your insurer will “total” your home and pay you the policy limits contained within your policy. Texas is not a “valued policy” state. Valued policy means that if your property is destroyed by a covered cause of loss, the face value of the policy is due to the insured. In Texas you will only be paid for what the replacement cost of the property is regardless of how much insurance you carried. You must be prepared to reconstruct the cost of replacing your property on paper and demonstrate what the true replacement value is to your insurer. The insurance adjuster will be there to assess what his employer should pay you. It’s not the insurance adjuster’s job to assert your claim to the insurer- it’s yours.
Scenario 2: Should you return to find a partially burned home you will have to be prepared to demonstrate to the insurer why those partially damaged portions of your home should be rebuilt correctly and not just patched. I have seen numerous occasions where lines are drawn in the sand by the insurer when it comes to properly repairing partially burned homes. If you have significant partial damage and you feel that your home might be a total loss, you should push the issue with the insurer and be prepared to show why it’s not practical to repair your home.
Scenario 3: You return to find your home standing and looking pretty good from the outside, but enter to find an intense smell of smoke and some water damage from the fire departments wetting down the structure to save it. This will be prove to be a very tough claim for you as fires of this magnitude create smoke that is so intense it permeates every opening in the structure. You may discover that the insurer wishes to send out one of their vendors to “clean” the smoke from your home. While this can be effective in a limited number of cases with an isolated fire, it will likely not be effective in wildfire situation. Paper and fabric based products absorb the smoke smell and the odor will penetrate into your walls, insulation and attic. The only real cure is to remove these building products and replace them. You will have to be prepared to convince your insurer that this is necessary and that won’t be an easy task.
Finally, you have to consider your contents. If the contents are burned beyond recognition, your job will be to compile a list of contents that includes quantities, ages, and the cost to replace those items today. You will also have to prove ownership by providing pictures or other documents that actually demonstrate that you owned the items. Unfortunately it’s the insured’s job to prove what they owned and what those items are worth. If you return to find some contents only partially damaged then you will have to demonstrate why it’s proper to replace those items and not clean them.
Fire and smoke claims are challenging to say the least, and that is why it’s imperative for the policyholder to take the initiative on asserting and supporting their claim from the outset.