The Anatomy of a Homeowners Fire Claim

A kitchen fire causes extensive damage to your home. After the fire is out you reach for your insurance policy, pick up the phone and call your insurance broker.

What do you do? What does the insurance company do? Who pays what and when? What about the deductible?

1. Get the claim process started

To get the claim process started your broker will need to know what happened, when it happened, how it happened, who was involved and what damage was done. If the police were involved, the insurance company will want to know the police case number.

Your broker will access and confirm your policy information and report the claim to your insurance company. In the meantime and before and after the insurance company contacts you, it is your resposibility to mitigate your claim. This means that you must do what you can to prevent further damage from occurring. For example putting a tarp over an opening in your roof.

2. Insurance company assigns an adjuster to handle your claim

Upon receiving your claim the insurance company will assign an adjuster to handle your claim. The adjuster will be in touch with you to set the wheels in motion. Depending of the time of day and the severity of your damages you should hear from the adjuster the same day or the next day at the latest.

The adjusters job, on behalf of the insurance company is to quarterback the processing of your claim. If contractors, restoration specialists, etc. need to be involved in repairing or replacing your damage, the adjuster will arrange for and monitor their work. Unless otherwise stated or agreed upon, and excepting your deductible, the insurance company is responsible for all claims costs.

Keep in mind that adjusters have many files to look after. At all times during the claim process you should keep in close touch with the adjuster, and hold him/her accountable for making your whole again as soon as possible. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If the adjuster is not doing a good job, call the insurance company and ask to speak to the claim manager.

Your broker can also advocate for you and can often make a difference if things are not proceeding to your satisfaction.

3. Proving your loss

Remember though you have to prove your loss. The more proof you have - receipts, appraisals, photo's describe and confirm what you lost, the smoother your claim experience will be.

The absence of receipts or other proof does not mean you can't claim something. It just means the adjuster has to confirm your loss by looking at your lifestyle and other means. It obviously takes longer to settle a claim where you have difficulty proving your loss and you may end up with less, if for no other reason than you can't remember everything.

Here are a few things you can do to encourage a fair and prompt claim settlement.

  • Take photos and video's of your house and the contents of all of your rooms.
  • Make sure you take close ups of your jewellery and electronics.
  • Keep receipts and get appraisals.
  • Store your proof offsite at your workplace, the home of a friend or relative and/or a safe deposit box.

The Statutory Conditions attached to all policies detail the Reqirements After Loss. Be sure to read them so you are fully informed as to your responsibilities.