Fire Insurance Claims and Contents Inventory – Be Prepared
Tutwiler & Associates Public Adjusters was retained this week following a devastating fire that occurred in Pinellas County, Florida. The fire hit so close my home that I found myself scrambling to check all the smoke detectors in my house. Fortunately, everyone in this home survived without injury, but the fire was so bad that it completely destroyed everything inside the home well beyond recognition. Even worse, the property owner a brilliant young engineer did not have an inventory of his clothing, casual clothes, household furniture, tools in the garage, or expensive electronic items just to name a few. Everything was literally burned to ashes!
Most of our fire claim clients will tell you the easiest part was surviving fire and the hardest part was the insurance claim process and rightfully so. Without a proper inventory or photographs of the damage, how does one expect the insurance company to know what you had inside your home? How can the property insurance company know and trust the value, age, or condition of those items? I will tell you that we spend a great deal of time trying to help clients document and research their personal belongings so they can get everything they are entitled to under their policy.
Remember, the burden of proving the property and personal damage is on you the insurance policyholder. The carrier expects you to tell them what you had. They simply leave you a few inventory forms and tell you “have at it.” This tactic is a burden for a reason. One, how does the property owner know how to properly fill out inventory forms that comply with the insurance policy terms and conditions? Two, how do you know how to calculate values, depreciation or the age of items especially if your receipts were destroyed or you even kept receipts for every item owned. Time and time again, I see adjusters taking inventory forms, go online to find the same item on E-bay or Amazon and pay you the amount they found online. But is that what you really paid for it? You may never know.
This weekend I will be updating my own home inventory along with the proper replacement costs. I will then reevaluate my insurance policy to make sure I have adequate coverage to replace all the items in the event something happens. And if you have jewelry, firearms, passports, cash money, coins, or any other rare item, make sure to read that insurance policy. How would you feel if the insurance company only paid you $200 for money, bank notes, gold, platinum, coins, or medals held in a safe? Or $2,500 for a garage full of tools and $1,500 for your jewelry or watches or $2,500 for your China or Silverware on display in your cabinet. Shocking isn’t it? But these are the norms for many insurance policies we review as public adjusters.
If you haven’t yet done so, prepare a home inventory. Online tools and the video capabilities of smart phones make is so much easier today to prepare something and have it ready if the worst should happen. Our company had a tremendous amount of calls this year from people with major damage to their commercial or residential properties with little to no insurance coverage. They simply just did not have enough insurance or they simply did not want to pay for it. Folks it can happen to anyone at any time.
If you have questions regarding any property insurance claim related issues please call 800.321.4488 or contact us to submit a question to one of our public adjuster or insurance claim experts.