Frequently Asked Questions about Fire and Smoke

FAQs About Fire and Smoke

Collapse All Expand All
It is never too late to consult with us at no cost or obligation. We are eager to take the opportunity to meet with you, review your individual situation and, if we may be of assistance to you, provide you some options for undertaking the process of resolving your claim.
This question often comes up during the fire claim process and is often impacted by policy limits being a factor. Why would you want to pay to have something wiped and stored when it is a total loss and cannot be returned to its pre-loss condition? Keep in mind that this cost will be taken from your policy limits. If the insurance adjuster says it has to be done, tell them to take it off the claim expense and not your policy limits. Tutwiler & Associates has the expertise to know when we should recommend bringing in an expert to give an opinion as to the reparability of an item. If a disagreement with the insurance carrier persists, then we will work to get them to test clean a small representative sample of items in question as an investigative expense rather than having the cost count against your coverage limits.
You may have coverage to allow you to shift certain expenses within various categories, such as away from Business Personal Property and over to Business Interruption/Extra Expense. A Tutwiler & Associates public adjuster can help you recognize when such situations exist and can advise you when to fairly allocate expenses so they might be beneficial to you. We have been involved in situations wherein we have netted our clients tens of thousands of dollars applying these common sense strategies.
In some cases, a municipality or legal authority may require you to do so. In other cases, it can be a simple matter of protecting yourself from liability. In any case, since the property is yours, it is indeed your responsibility to secure it. These types of costs are often what are categorized as an extra expense under the business policy and we have made the argument in the past that they are required in order to protect the property in furtherance of the investigation on homeowner claims. We would always submit these costs to the carrier for reimbursement.
You have an obligation and duty to prevent further losses from occurring. Often insurance company adjusters need to gather facts and report back to superiors to gain authority to property settle your loss. In the meantime you must preserve, protect and prevent further damage even if it means actually paying this cost out of your own pocket.
Generally no, the insurance company owes you for your loss. Depending on the state laws where the fire loss occurred and the policy terms, you may only be paid the actual cash value of the loss. When you make the replacement you will be paid the replacement cost if you have this type of insurance coverage. There are many issues that follow a fire such as code and zoning, issues that need to be investigated and taken into consideration. The public adjusters at Tutwiler & Associates are standing ready to assist you in these areas.

First, always read your insurance policy to see if they have written out in this contract how depreciation is to be applied. If not spelled out, then you should have the ability to state your own case on what is fair and reasonable.

The depreciation that should be applied is fact specific to the condition of the building or property in question. At best, calculating depreciation is an art form and different adjusters can and often come to different opinions and amounts as to the depreciation that should be taken.

One case comes to mind on a loss our firm is currently working on where four different professionals at different  times but during the policy period arrived at different amounts of depreciation on a commercial hospital building. While it may be reasonable to take a certain percent for each year of the building's age, it is not a universal method and in fact the condition, wear and tear, usage and maintenance and upkeep need to be considered.  Some states recognizing this have adopted the "broad evidence rule" which in summary says that any number of things can be used to determine the condition and depreciation to be taken. 

In the loss adjusting process, depreciation is very negotiable and any policyholder should prepare their argument with their own set of facts if they disagree with the insurance company adjuster's position.