Wildfire Insurance Claim
Your home is gone, the insurer will have to pay the policy limits… Right?
I have been a public adjuster for many years and have seen just about every loss situation you can imagine. After seeing the wildfire damage in Bastrop, I could not help but envision the following story wildfire insurance claim unfolding.
Your home was totally destroyed by the recent wildfires and even though your world is turned upside down, you do have some sense of confidence because at least you know you are insured well and have no doubt that a check for the full amount of your policy will be forthcoming quickly.
Help with your Wildfire Insurance Claim
My name is Clay Morrison, I am a licensed public insurance adjuster and my toll free number is 866-723-5787. Call me and I will be the expert who looks out for your best interests!
Filing for the Wildfire Insurance Claim
You have maintained “full” coverage in the amount of $200,000 for over 20 years now with your agent who is also your neighbor, and have never made a claim for a single item. You make a trip to your agent’s office who directs you to the claim tent set up at the nearby Grocery store parking lot. When you arrive at the claims tent, you are greeted by a very friendly soul who says they are the field supervisor, and immediately begins pulling up your information on the computer to assist you on your wildfire insurance claim.
They verify that you are in a known fire zone, possibly on the confirmed total loss list and that you are definitely covered for fire. With great enthusiasm you are presented with a check for $1,500.00. You are a little dumbfounded and tell the supervisor that your house is gone- what about the rest of my insurance coverage?
The supervisor states that an independent field adjuster will be contacting you to make an appointment to view the property and as soon as that is completed you will be receiving payment for your claim with no explanation what “payment” means. You question further, but you are assured that “we will take good care of you”.
Feeling somewhat upset but still holding onto the belief that you will be paid in full for your policy limit amount you wait in anticipation for the call from the independent field adjuster for your wildfire insurance claim. The field adjuster calls, makes the appointment and subsequently meets you at the site.
After a brief inspection and a few questions, you ask the adjuster for a card so that you can contact him with further questions and as it turns out, he is out of business cards. He tells you that he will turn in his report to the insurer and they will be in touch. There is no confirmation of payment or how much.
By this point you are not feeling as much confidence as you did a couple days ago when you contacted your agent on your wildfire insurance claim. However you are still certain that a check for $200,000 will be arriving as soon as the independent adjuster turns in his report. Numerous days pass and no check arrives.
Finally three weeks after the independent field adjuster inspected your home an envelope arrives, and with great excitement you tear it open to find a check for $105,500 enclosed with instructions that explain that your total loss amount was $145,500 and that they have withheld $40,500.00 in recoverable depreciation that you may be able to recover someday depending on certain circumstances.
At this moment, you immediately realize that there must be a mistake and head off to the claims tent where all this started only to discover there is no mistake and you will have to call an 800 number in order to enquire as to why the claim was so underpaid.
At this point you are in denial, this cannot be happening- certainly this is a mistake in the system and they will rectify it. After all isn’t that how insurance works? The insurer will have to pay the policy limits….Right?
The answer is a resounding NO!
Much to the dismay of policy holders in the Bastrop area, a burned to the ground home does not mean payment in full of your policy limits. When a disaster occurs and your property is completely destroyed it is up to you, the insured to demonstrate why the property insured was worth every dollar that you were insured for.
In Texas and many other places the insurer will only pay what you can prove the value of the home to be, regardless of how much insurance you carried. It is critical that you document your home properly in order to receive the full amount you may be owed under your policy. It is also critical that you perform this in a timely manner.
The longer it takes for your wildfire insurance claim, the more likely you are to end up shorted on the back end. Your insurer will utilize their adjuster to reconstruct your property on paper and if the total number that comes out of their software is lower than your policy limit that is what you will be paid. The moral of the story is to be prepared to reconstruct your property on paper to demonstrate the true value or find a professional to do it for you. What you receive for your wildfire insurance claim is up to you.