Fire damage may partially or completely destroy a home and the belongings within. Fire damage is one of the most common disasters that affect homes, with all homes at risk of sustaining fire damage. The home and the belongings which are damaged may or may not be covered by homeowner’s insurance, depending on the specifications of the policy.
Fire Damage Causes
Fire damage can be caused by many different occurrences, including:
- Electronic malfunctions
- Cooking accidents
- Unattended candles
- Improperly extinguished cigarettes
- Spreading wildfires
- Combustion from improperly stored chemicals
Secondary Fire Damage
In order to stop a fire, water or other flame retardants may be introduced. While these materials may stop the destruction that the fire was causing, secondary damage may occur. This may include the development of mold from water damage and poor air quality from smoke and ash. Fire fighters may also destroy walls, windows, and doors in order to stop a fire.
Fire Damage Insurance
Fire damage may be covered under a standard homeowner’s insurance policy, or may require the purchase of additional coverage. Insurance companies in areas that have a high risk of drought and resulting fires may be more likely to separate fire damage from general homeowner’s insurance in order to provide more affordable insurance plans. It is important that home owners understand what is covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy before purchasing the policy so that claims will not be filed and denied following an incident in which fire damage occurs.
Fire Damage Claims
Home owners should file a claim for fire damage as soon as possible following the event that caused the damage. Filing quickly will help to get the process started as soon as possible and will allow repairs to begin quickly, which may help to prevent further damage from occurring. Filing shortly after an incident may also allow home owners to take an advance in order to replace clothing and other immediate necessities that may have been damaged in the fire.
When a fire damage claim is filed, the home owner must compile a list of damaged items and an estimated valuation. It is very helpful for the home owner to have a list and valuation compiled in advance, as it may be difficult to remember all of the items. The insurance company has an average valuation that is used in cases where the home owner cannot provide an itemized listing, but the insurance company’s estimate is likely to be less than the actual value.
Following a fire damage claim, the insurance company will typically send a claims adjuster to assess the damage and estimate the cost of repairs. Home owners often benefit from having a contractor give a second opinion on the cost of repairs. The opinion of an experienced contractor may help to provide leverage for negotiating with the insurance company. Even if little to no fire damage is visible, it may benefit a home owner to have a damage assessment done. Heat can cause damage and warping to a roof, windows, and walls that may not be visible or obvious but can be dangerous and costly.
Denied Fire Damage Claims
An insurance company may deny fire damage claims based on the suspicion of arson or other factors. If it is determined that a fire was caused by the homeowner in an attempt to collect insurance money, the claim will be denied and the home owner may be subject to criminal charges. However, the insurance company must provide the resources to investigate and prove that arson was the cause of the fire damage.
An insurance policy may specify that only fire damage is covered, not damage that occurs as a result of water used to stop the fire or other secondary damage. Insurance companies may also specify that only structural damage is covered, or other such specifications that limit the amount paid for fire damage. Most insurance policies also specify a maximum amount that will be paid for fire damage. If damage is determined to exceed this amount, the case is considered a “total loss,” and the home owner is given the full amount that was specified within the policy. If a fire damage claim is denied or the amount that is awarded is less than the home owner expected or agreed upon, an attorney may be able to provide advice and assistance.
“Frequently Asked Questions about Fire/Smoke/Explosion Damage.” Frequently Asked Questions about Fire/Smoke/Explosion Damage. Texas Department of Insurance, 30 Jan. 2014. Web. 2 June 2014. <http://www.tdi.texas.gov/news/westfaq.html>
“Insurance Claim Tips for Partial Loss Fires.” United Policy Holders, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 2 June 2014. <http://www.uphelp.org/sites/default/files/ExtremeHeat_0.pdf>