Will Insurance Protect Me if My House Burns Down - morgan and morgan
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Will Insurance Protect Me if My House Burns Down?

Will Insurance Protect Me if My House Burns Down?

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Will Insurance Protect Me if My House Burns Down?

A house fire is a traumatic event for anyone. You may lose keepsakes, family heirlooms, and all of the things that make a house a home. You could be feeling stressed and emotional, which is totally understandable since your house is probably the most valuable asset you will ever own. And that's why you have homeowners insurance to protect your investment in case of fire or other kinds of damage. 

Every year, there are an average of 355,400 residential fires ranging from small, easily contained fires to total losses. Yet, no one ever thinks it will happen to them until after experiencing the tragic event of having their house burned down. Insurance is supposed to protect you from the financial loss of a house fire. But what can you do if your insurance company is giving you a hard time and refusing to pay for your losses or even denying your claim outright?

How does insurance work after a house fire?

The vast majority of homeowners insurance policies cover fire damage to your property and loss of personal belongings, as well as covering the expenses for temporary relocation. The structure and materials of your home are usually protected under what is known as "dwelling coverage." At the same time, your personal possessions are covered under "personal property coverage." When your home is damaged or destroyed, these types of insurance are meant to make you whole up to the coverage limit. Your policy should also offer coverage for detached structures like sheds, carports, and fences. Some may even provide compensation for landscaping like trees or shrubs burned in the fire.

Furthermore, your policy should also have "loss of use coverage" for increased expenses like the difference in expenses for food, laundry, and other extra costs you'll have due to not being able to live at your residence.

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FAQ

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  • What types of fires are usually covered by homeowners insurance?

    Candle fires - If anyone in your home knocks over a candle and starts a fire, this is usually covered.

    Grease fires - Gas ranges are a common cause of grease fires, and if this kind of fire damages your home, your insurance should cover it.

    Electrical fires - An electrical fire can be caused by a faulty outlet or a failure or malfunction within an electrical component in your home. These kinds of fires are typically covered.

    Accidental fires - Accidents happen, and if you accidentally leave an oven mitt too close to an unattended boiling pot of water and the mitt catches fire and spreads flames to cupboards, this kind of damage is usually covered too.

  • What kinds of fires are not covered by homeowners insurance?

    While most homeowners insurance policies cover vandalism, if you or a family member purposely set the fire, insurance will not provide coverage for arson. Also, suppose your home has been vacant for more than 30 days, and you have a house fire. In that case, you'll not likely get any financial support unless you have vacant property insurance.

  • What should I do immediately after a house fire?

    There are a lot of steps to take directly after having your house burned down. Insurance companies will expect you to act promptly and do whatever is necessary to mitigate further damage. Here's some advice we recommend to our clients who have been victims of a house fire.

    Request an advance from your insurance company - Depending on how and when the fire started, you may not have had an opportunity to save anything and need basic necessities like toiletries and clothing. You should be able to request an advance from your insurance company to cover these items. Be sure to save all receipts for your purchases and be reasonable in your purchase items. It's best to shop for clothes just as you would typically, meaning don't buy an extravagant wardrobe.

    Mitigate further damage to your property - Insurance companies expect you to do your due diligence to secure your property against further damage. For example, suppose the fire burned down a wall, and you know a storm is coming. In that case, the insurance company will expect that you put up tarps to prevent flooding of the undamaged portions of your home. Professional mitigation contractors can perform these services, including boarding up doors and windows to prevent further damage to the structure. But you will also need to check on the property regularly to make sure no other harm comes to it.

    File your insurance claim promptly - We understand that it's a stressful time, but insurance companies expect you to report a house fire right away. They will ask you to submit a "proof of loss claim," which should include a list of all your losses and the value of the items. Delayed reporting of house fires raises red flags with the insurance adjusters and only makes the process of getting compensation more difficult. 

    Any communication with the insurance company must be documented, so save all emails, texts, and letters. Keep notes on phone conversations, including the date, time, and names of people you talk to about the claim. Save the original copies of all repair documentation like invoices, estimates, bills, and contracts for repair work.

    Document your daily living expenses if you're unable to live in the home - You should be entitled to living expenses through your policy "loss of use" clause, which covers additional expenses incurred from not being able to live in your home. However, this doesn't mean you can live high on the hog. This clause only covers the difference it costs you have while living away instead of at home. For example, say you have a remote job that requires you to have high-speed internet, but the hotel where you're staying charges a premium for high-speed internet access. Your internet costs $80 a month at home, and the hotel is charging $100 a month. You wouldn't be eligible to get $100; instead, you would get $20 for the difference in cost.

    Even if you're fortunate enough to stay with friends or family, you could still make an argument that they should be compensated for putting you up. After all, they probably have rent or a mortgage, too. 

    Hire an independent estimator - You don't have to accept the insurance adjuster's numbers at face value. You can hire an independent estimator that is experienced in building and working with insurance companies. You have a right to be compensated fairly, and that includes what a buyer would have paid for your home before the damage.

    Don't stop paying your insurance premiums - If your home was partially damaged, you still need liability protection. Even if the structure is a total loss, you still want to protect yourself wherever you're currently living. Still, you could ask your insurance agent to reduce your coverage for the structure. 

  • What are the reasons insurance companies deny fire claims?

    As a homeowner, you expect a house fire to be covered through your homeowner's insurance policy. Still, there are times when you could get a nasty surprise. Here are some reasons your claim may be denied.

    The home is underinsured - Coverage limits are usually based on market value for the home. It doesn't cover expenses that are incurred because of a natural disaster. For example, the California wildfire made construction costs go through the roof. Your home's policy won't factor in these kinds of circumstances.

    Your personal belongings are underinsured - Your replacement coverage for your personal belongings may not cover the true value of your home's contents. That's why it's essential to review your policy from time to time, especially if you've lived in your home for a long time. That cheap furniture you bought right after college has likely been replaced gradually with higher-end items.

    Premium non-payment - If you fall behind on your premiums, the insurance company does not have to pay out on a loss claim. Keeping up with insurance payments is crucial.

    Inflating the value of lost belongings - You can have your fire claim rejected if the insurance adjuster feels like you've inflated the value of your lost belongings. That's why you should keep a cloud-based inventory of your belongings. Take pictures or make a video of all of your belongings. 

    Arson- As stated previously, if you or anyone of your family members started the fire on purpose, the insurance company is not obligated to pay out on your claim.

    Illegal activities in the home - Evidence of unlawful activities in the home could invalidate your claims, such as the manufacturing of meth or other drugs. 

    Electrical work without proper permits or inspections - Any electrical work must be done with all the proper permits and inspections. If the insurance company finds that work was improperly done, your claim could be rejected. 

  • What do I do if my house fire claim is denied?

    You should get a formal "Reservation of Rights" letter that details precisely why your claim is being denied. Once you get this letter, a time clock starts ticking. You have a deadline to respond. However, your insurance company still has to help you if you're paid up on your premiums. 

    You can file an appeal with the insurance company when you receive a denial letter. Still, if you feel like your insurance company is acting in bad faith, you should contact one of our personal injury lawyers to file a bad-faith lawsuit.

  • What is a bad-faith lawsuit?

    We all know that insurance companies do everything they can to minimize payouts or deny claims altogether because it's a business about making money. But when you have a valid claim, and they are deliberately making your life impossible, that's acting in bad faith, and they can be held legally accountable through a bad-faith lawsuit. 

    A bad-faith lawsuit isn't the answer if you and the insurance company just aren't seeing eye to eye. However, a bad-faith lawsuit would be a legitimate option if the insurance company refuses to show reasonable grounds to deny your claim. Another example of acting in bad faith is ignoring evidence that supports your claim while actively looking for evidence that refutes it. 

    States have laws that are enacted to protect people from unethical insurance companies. When an insurance company breaches the duty of good faith and fair dealing, you can recover the total of benefits you were denied, plus any other financial losses tied to the bad faith dealing. You could also be eligible for compensation for the emotional distress you've been put through. In some cases, if their behavior was particularly bad, you could even win punitive damages, which usually comes to a high dollar amount. 

    Our bad faith insurance attorneys will handle everything from negotiations to filing legal paperwork to representing you in court. You've had enough to deal with after having your house burned down. Insurance companies can be held accountable, even the big ones with powerful attorneys. When you go up against big insurance companies, you need to be represented by an equally powerful law firm. Morgan & Morgan is one of the largest, most prolific law firms in the U.S., with over 700 trial-ready lawyers and thousands of support staff. We can help get your life back to normal with our resources and expertise. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. 

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