"We are so grateful that a consumer-focused organization like UP – completely independent of the insurance industry – is there to help families and individuals, homeowners and renters alike, navigate the confusing claims process after a disaster, and to help them before a crisis as well."
San Diego County Wildfires
by United Policyholders
In this section you will find tips, tools and resources for navigating your insurance claim settlement. In addition to what you'll find here, you can use the search box to find articles, surveys and reports, and you can watch videos of Roadmap to Recovery™ post-disaster workshops.
If your home is close to a wildfire area and you're returning to it after an evacuation order has been lifted, here is a checklist of things to consider:
- Visit the UP Claim Help library for guidance for partial and total fire losses, insurance claims and settlement strategies. If you home was damaged or destroyed, start with your "First Steps"
- You can claim reimbursement from your insurance company for Additional Living Expenses (“ALE”) you incurred due to the loss of use of your home because of a mandatory evacuation order or damage that makes it uninhabitable. Check the “Loss of Use” section of your policy. Common wording that covers evacuation costs is “prohibited use due to civil authority.” A deductible may or may not apply to your ALE claim, depending on your policy’s wording. If your expenses are modest, you may be better off paying them out of pocket to avoid filing a claim that can impact your premiums.
- Heavy smoke, nearby flames and extreme heat can cause visible or hidden damage, impact a home's air quality and/or create health hazards you may not be able to see or smell. For more information. Read our tips on these types of losses/insurance claims.
- Indoor air quality and home environment health standards vary and there is not one official, clear and established set of guidelines for smoke, soot and ash contamination and proper cleaning methods.
- If there are members of your household who have chemical sensitivities, a history of respiratory illness, or are immunosuppressed, notify your insurer and consult with a physician before moving back in.
- Unless an insurance company adjuster has special training and conducts appropriate testing, he/she is not qualified to determine whether there are harmful particulates or hydrocarbons in your home or whether your home is habitable.
- A reputable and qualified Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) can inspect and test the air, surfaces and “soft goods” (furniture, rugs, curtains, etc.) in your home. If you are hiring one yourself, check qualifications and references carefully. If you are reviewing a report prepared by an expert hired by your insurer, do the same. Visit: nrep.org/ciaqm-certification.php
- Communicate with your insurer in writing if you believe your home is not safe to live in and provide them with supporting documentation. Request that they cover the cost of appropriate inspection, testing and remediation and ALE. Be prepared to enforce your rights if an adjuster or insurer rejects your request to cover necessary costs.
Bottom line: Protect your property and the health of your household members by being cautious about moving back in, and by taking steps to have your homeproperly inspected and cleaned, repaired, or restored.
About The Blogger
United Policyholders is a non-profit organization that serves as a voice and an information resource for insurance consumers in all 50 States.