Like any natural disaster, wildfires can result in a considerable amount of destruction. A person loses their livelihood due to uncontrolled flames. In addition to the mental anguish, their losses lead to financial concerns.
Insurance companies usually provide wildfire coverage for homeowners living in areas prone to natural events. Therefore, you can receive money by filing a claim after sustaining wildfire damage.
Damages in a Wildfire Claim
Over 5.2 million acres of land sustain damage from wildfires annually. While many acres belong to forests, the flames can reach towns. As a result, people have to spend a lot of money to deal with the aftermath.
If someone lives in a high-risk area, they likely have coverage for wildfires. They can file a claim with their insurer to get some financial assistance.
Claimants regularly receive monetary compensation for property damage to their buildings. Businesses and private homes qualify for reimbursement. Degradation can come from flames, smoke, soot, and other sources related to the wildfire.
Property damage usually includes the repairs a building’s structure needs. Nevertheless, other pieces of property can receive coverage. For instance, you can get money for a destroyed fence or shed. Additional losses you may claim are landscaping costs, agricultural damage, and restoring pools.
Of course, property damage compensation includes your personal items. You may have lost valuable family heirlooms, jewelry, or furniture. You might need to pay for vehicle maintenance after a wildfire. Additionally, you can claim electronic and appliance replacements as part of a settlement.
Wildfires can result in bodily harm as well. The smoke alone may irritate the eyes or respiratory system. An individual must seek medical treatment if they develop bronchitis from smoke inhalation. Exposure may lead to life-threatening conditions as well.
Contact with flames from a wildfire generally results in various injuries. A victim could suffer from soft-tissue damage or eye injuries. Burns are a common injury, and they may result in multiple complications. For example, a severe burn damages the nerves and leaves a scar.
Claimants can claim compensation for any expenses related to amputations and other catastrophic injuries they suffered. Costs can be for immediate treatment and possible long-term care.
A person might be unable to return to work for a while due to a wildfire. One reason is they could require time to recover. Alternatively, they may lack transportation or need to deal with an insurance claim. Therefore, they can get compensation for the wages they lost.
Lost income can refer to the drop in revenue a company faces. Insurance covers the expenses related to your business’s wildfire damages. However, a policy may consist of a limit on what the insurer will pay.
Since wildfires are traumatic, survivors generally experience some form of emotional trauma. One individual might deal with pain and suffering, but another could develop depression or anxiety. Claimants may suffer from loss of enjoyment in life and chronic pain.
You may qualify for financial reimbursement for emotional damages in a wildfire claim. Keep a record of everything to give to your lawyer. Your attorney can inform you of what damages a claim may be able to cover.
How to File a Claim After Sustaining Wildfire Damage
Every year, an average of 70,000 wildfires occur in the United States. Property damage alone can cost someone a lot of money. Homeowners in areas at risk of wildfires usually have insurance policies to cover the damage. Therefore, they can pursue compensation to recover from some of their losses.
Insurance companies generally approve claims if someone sustained damage to their home, vehicle, pets, livestock, land, or business location. An individual may be able to get more if a fire affects their well-being. Your insurer has a process for beginning a wildfire claim.
Document the Damage
Once the area is safe to return to, list what the fire damaged. The insurance adjuster can produce a more accurate estimate if you document as much as possible. Photos and video footage make compelling evidence and protect your claim from arguments of fraud.
Once you have documented everything, you must complete a “proof of loss’‘ form. The proof of loss form is a formal declaration of smoke and fire damage to the claimant’s property.
Debris may be all over the place, and you may desire to clean up the mess. However, you should avoid throwing anything away. Keep all the ruined items as proof of the severity of the wildfire’s damage. The evidence strengthens your claim and increases the potential compensation.
Review Your Policy
If a person plans to file a wildfire claim, they should review their policy first. You will want to know what your policy covers and if the coverage has limits. Minimum insurance usually covers the exact value of repairing or rebuilding a home. A part of your plan protects furniture, clothing, electronics, and other personal items.
Wildfire insurance typically pays for related expenses under a loss of use policy. You can receive money to cover living expenses if your home is inhabitable. In addition, the plan pays for the costs of staying at a hotel and using transportation. However, loss of use coverage generally has a limit.
Reviewing your insurance plan helps you know how much money you can expect. Moreover, you become aware of what damages you can list in your claim.
Call the Insurance Company
The next step to getting financial reimbursement is to contact your insurer as soon as possible. Tell the insurance adjuster about how the wildfire affected your property. Afterward, the adjuster begins to calculate the total worth of your losses.
A representative may arrive at your location to assess everything. They may ask you about when you purchased each damaged item. The agent likely will want to know how much the expected repair costs will be. You can obtain repair estimates from a home repair company.
Find a Wildfire Lawyer
Similar to other types of insurance claims, wildfire claims can be complex. The process can become more complicated if the insurance company attempts to devalue your claim. The adjuster could argue the damage is not as bad as you described when submitting the paperwork. As a result, you might receive a low offer.
A wildfire lawyer can help you deal with your insurer. They talk to the adjuster and negotiate for a fair settlement. An attorney knows how to gather evidence of your losses to convince the insurance company to agree to a better deal.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wildfire Claim?
A claim may be able to give you what you need to get back on your feet. However, you must call your insurance company as soon as possible. You only have a limited time to file a claim and get compensation.
Like other claims, a statute of limitations designates how long you have to start your claim. The length of time depends on where you live. You could have one year to pursue monetary compensation or more. However, the circumstances of a wildfire may impact the deadline.
A significant fire can result in the state declaring a state of emergency. Furthermore, insurance companies might receive numerous claims and need a while to process them. As a result, people can have additional time to contact their insurers.
Once the deadline has passed, the insurance company likely will deny a claim. The statute of limitations quickly expires when someone is busy with personal matters. To protect your rights, hire a wildfire attorney. A lawyer files the paperwork on time while you deal with the repairs.
Reasons Insurers Deny or Devalue a Claim
Exaggerated the Damage
While plenty of people get the money they need, others may struggle with their claims. Wildfire claims can frustrate insured homeowners since an insurer may deny payments. A common reason why an insurance company rejects a claim is if the reported damage appears inflated.
The insurer may argue you described the damages to be more excessive than they are. The adjuster may look for proof of exaggeration to limit how much they have to pay. To counter them, collect evidence of ruined property and injuries. Pictures can clearly show the extent of the destruction, and you may need records to prove the value of damaged items.
Filed the Claim Late
Another reason someone might struggle with their claim is time constraints. The aftermath of a wildfire requires a lot of the survivor’s attention. If they sustained injuries, they might focus more on their treatment than other matters. They risk losing their chance at compensation due to a brief window of opportunity.
The representative can deny a person’s claim if they miss the deadline. Insurance companies may extend the filing period for cases of wildfires. Nevertheless, they continue to have strict deadlines. A wildfire lawyer ensures everything proceeds on time to avoid the loss of reimbursement.
Past Damage and Weathering
The adjuster may deny or reduce the value of your claim based on prior damage. Property experiences natural wear and weathering over time, and houses can experience maintenance issues. In addition, a previous accident might have ruined furniture or a vehicle.
The insurance agent may relate the damage to natural degradation instead of the wildfire. The payment you receive is far less as a result.
Your insurance company could act in bad faith. Contact a wildfire lawyer if you believe the adjuster’s rejection is unfair.
Who Is Liable for Wildfire Damages?
Often, an insurance policy is not enough to cover a person’s damages. A lawsuit can provide additional money. However, naming someone as the defendant may be confusing since natural causes can start wildfires.
Consult a lawyer about your wildfire losses. You may discover negligence played a role instead of nature.
Possible negligent parties who could owe you compensation are:
- Individuals. Almost 85 percent of wildfires start because of human error. Despite warnings, a person might leave their campfire unattended. They might carelessly toss away their cigarettes. Intentional acts of arson can be the cause of a wildfire as well.
- Electric companies. An electric company should understand the risks of dry vegetation and other factors near their equipment. A spark can lead to severe consequences for many people. Electric companies are liable if they respond late to potentially dangerous issues.
- Product manufactures. A person or company’s equipment may have malfunctioned. However, an investigation might reveal a design flaw as the root cause of the fire. Product manufacturers must ensure products are safe to use.
- Businesses. A company could be liable if it did not use precautions to prevent a wildfire. Your lawyer may find evidence an employer knew of a potential fire hazard but did not resolve it in time.
- The government. Multiple agencies are responsible for wildfire management. You would need to prove the government did not respond in a reasonable amount of time.
In a few cases, multiple parties could be liable for a wildfire. An attorney can bring them to justice to obtain compensation from each group.
Hire a Wildfire Attorney
Significant wildfires generally mean insurance companies have to process multiple claims at once. You can expect a longer wait period, but you should talk to an attorney if weeks have passed without a response. Your insurer likely has tactics to delay claims since paying many of them at once loses the company money.
The insurance adjuster might take their time to process your claim. Alternatively, you may have difficulty getting a hold of them on the phone. Therefore, you hire a law firm. A wildfire lawyer works with the insurance company to promptly recover your compensation.
Another reason to hire a wildfire attorney is they can help you get medical care. They may be able to assist you in finding a quality doctor. The costs can be a concern, but your attorney fights for a higher settlement to make sure you can afford the bills.
Additionally, you do not need to worry about paying a fee upfront. Many wildfire attorneys wait until they win a settlement to receive their payment. The fee is a percentage of the compensation.
You might not know if a wildfire attorney is right for you. A consultation can help you decide if a law firm near you can meet your needs.