fire public adjuster
Header pic
Working with Rick allowed my wife and I to refocus our efforts toward our future, our life, and allowed time salvaging our most precious assets. Please remember when you have a claim not to go it alone. Homeowner

Understanding Fire and Smoke Damage

Fire losses are often the most devastating occurrences that can happen to a family or business. Fire damage requires important short-term decisions from individuals that are under a tremendous amount of stress and confusion. Unfortunately, our fire claim adjusters see many mistakes being made regarding how to handle a restoration company or what contracts to sign. These can have lasting consequences on what you recover from your fire insurance claim. Just view this investigative report about getting the most out of your insurance claim after a fire. The fire adjusters at Tutwiler & Associates will apply our years of practical and professional experience to your fire loss claim.  We have the knowledge and expertise to help you negotiate the complicated process required by your insurance carrier to get your fire claim paid in a fair and honest manner.

So, should you hire a public adjuster when you have a fire? Read what Consumer Reports has to say about filing an insurance claim after a fire. Get a public adjuster involved early to avoid making mistakes with restoration contractors and the insuarnce company. 

Attorney or Public Adjuster

We see some policyholders get confused about whether they should hire an attorney or public adjuster to handle their fire claim. Both have a valuable advocacy role in the claims process. To get value from both we would suggest hiring a public adjuster on the front end to manage your fire claim. Only if you are denied or legal issues arise that the public adjuster cannot handle would we incur the extra expense and time to hire an attorney. Read what this expert says about role of each professional.

A fire loss includes damages caused by smoke, soot, heat, the water used to extinguish the fire and the fire itself.  In the case of a severe fire, all of these components combine to make a residence or business uninhabitable and unusable.  Our first objective in preparing your claim for submission to your insurance carrier is to evaluate the scope of loss and damage as well as to analyze your insurance policy to see how it applies to the specific situations of your loss.

It must be determined to what degree the structure is damaged and how badly your personal or business property is affected.  Are these items and components repairable or are they a total loss?  It makes no economic sense to spend limited resources on repairs to items which will only be replaced in the end. This is one area where disputes commonly occur between the insured and the policyholder. One of the most common and potentially costly mistakes we see policyholders make is to sign authorization forms from "disaster restoration" firms which give these firms authorization to remove or attempt to repair items that may in fact be a total loss. This cost will be subtracted from the policy limits that may be needed to pay for items that are clearly a total loss.

Be sure to take some time to consult with Tutwiler & Associates before signing blank authorization forms. Let the professional public adjusters at Tutwiler & Associates determine what experts such as structural engineers, appliance and electronics technicians, and cleaning and restoration specialists should be used in formulating a comprehensive plan to return your property to its pre-loss condition. These forms are also used to “spike the job” and may in fact give rise to liens on the property months later should the policyholder and carrier disagree on the claim. In Florida be aware of “notice to owner” filings as the contractor has started the process to protect his lien rights.

Smoke almost always accompanies a fire and the effects of the hydrochloric acid contained in a typical structure fire are very corrosive.  Further, the heat of a fire pressurizes the smoke and drives it into areas of the building and affects contents which are surprisingly remote from the source of the fire.  For example, this smoke can lessen the life of electronic and mechanical equipment. The scope of restoration as well as the affected content value and cost of restoration can determine whether or not your property will be properly returned to its pre-loss condition.

Once a Tutwiler & Associates public adjuster has made a preliminary evaluation of your loss, we can guide, assist and advise you as to the best way to proceed towards the resolution of your claim against the insurance company. If you would like help with your fire and smoke damage insurance claim and understand your options, give us a call at 813-412-8357 or contact us.

FAQs About Fire and Smoke

Collapse All Expand All
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.

Tell Us About Your Claim

Select how you like us to respond
Enter the code shown above in the box below.

Local Office

Tutwiler & Associates Public Adjusters, Inc.
Licensed Public Insurance Adjusters & Loss Consultants
Offices: Tampa, Orlando, Palm City, Ft. Myers, Florida; Dallas, TX; Pittsburgh, PA

Executive Office
4300 W. Cypress St.
Suite 780
Tampa, FL 33607
Phone: 813.287.8090
Toll Free: 800.321.4488

Licensed in Florida # W840088 &
Texas #1399706 plus 16 other states
and the Virgin Islands