Affected by the Marshall Fire? What To Do After Filing a Fire Insurance Claim
While reporting the fire claim to your insurer is an essential step that should be taken as soon as possible, your job doesn't end there.
Boulder County’s Marshall Fire ravaged homes, businesses, buildings, and other properties in Superior, Louisville, and unincorporated Boulder County on December 30, 2021. It turned into Colorado’s most costly wildfire to date, with preliminary loss estimates of at least $2 billion.
In less than 24 hours, the Marshall Fire obliterated 1,089 homes and significantly damaged another 149. Property owners have submitted insurance claims and are now dealing with the claims process.
If your home was destroyed or damaged in the Marshall Fire or any other fire, you might wonder what to do after a fire insurance claim. While reporting the fire claim to your insurer is an essential step that should be taken as soon as possible, your job doesn’t end there.
Under your insurance policy, you must take other actions that protect your right to recover. Experiencing a house fire can be devasting and overwhelming. But it’s important to take these necessary steps to ensure a recovery to the fullest extent allowed by your policy during this difficult time.
Communicate and Continue to Follow Up with the Insurance Carrier
Once you have reported your claim, communication with the insurance carrier is critical. The adjuster assigned to your case should call you and schedule a time to come out and inspect the damage. If you are asked to provide additional documentation or proof of your damages, do so promptly, to the fullest extent possible. Your insurer should keep you updated on where your claim is in the process and what you should expect. If at any time you feel like they are intentionally or unreasonably delaying your claim, it’s time to reach out for legal help.
Take Pictures and Videos
Whether you use a cell phone or a different camera, get pictures and videos of the damage to your property. Be sure to document both the inside and outside, paying close attention to any specific areas with substantial damage. You should also take pictures and videos of what is left of your belongings to show the extent of your losses. For fires, you will also want to include pictures of any smoke damage.
Gather Old Photos and Videos
To the extent you can retrieve pre-fire photos and videos of your property and belongings, gather them and provide them to your insurance company. This helps to document what you had before the fire versus what has been lost. It will also assist in placing an accurate value on personal property and your home’s finishes.
Put Together an Inventory
With the assistance of memory, pre-fire photos and videos, and talking with your loved ones, put together a spreadsheet of the personal property you believe you have lost. To the extent you can, place a dollar value on each item or category of losses. If you can identify the specific item lost, it can be helpful to search the internet for links to that item for sale today and copy them into your spreadsheet. This is time consuming and painful, but it is necessary. If you do this right, the insurance company is less likely to underestimate your losses.
Get Everything in Writing
Unfortunately, you can’t just take the insurance company or adjuster’s word for it. Whatever they tell you, get it in writing. If they provide you with a settlement offer, get it in writing and read it carefully. Anything they tell you should be documented so that you have a paper trail of everything that has occurred since the start of your claim. Put your communications to the insurance company in writing. Get your adjuster’s email address and send communications directly. You may need these records to back up something you were told, or that you told the adjuster. If it comes to it, such documentation will be helpful in any subsequent legal action you are forced to take against the company if it doesn’t act in good faith to settle your fire damage claim fairly and promptly.
Talk to an Insurance Claims Attorney Before Signing Anything
As a claimant, you have the right to hire an attorney or to file a legal action when the insurance company violates these rights. The claims adjuster might act like they may be trying to save the insurance company money, but paying you fairly for your claim without any delays is counter to the insurer’s bottom line.
Don’t blindly sign anything the insurance company gives you without first reviewing it with an experienced insurance claims attorney. The documents they ask you to sign may be filled with insurance and legal jargon that could jeopardize your rights without you even knowing what you are signing. Protect your claim by being an informed consumer with a legal advocate on your side.
Zach Warzel, from the law firm of Keating Wagner Polidori Free, PC, has represented personal injury and bad faith clients since 2005. He focuses on representing insurance policyholders and complex personal injury clients. His notable cases include a $4.8M jury verdict against a supplemental health insurance company and a $2.2M jury verdict against a liability insurance carrier. Mr. Warzel has argued cases before the Colorado Court of Appeals, the Colorado Supreme Court, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
Mr. Warzel was named Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in American in the area of Insurance-Litigation in 2018 and 2022.