So, you experienced a house fire. The good news is that you are safe, and the most traumatic part of the ordeal is over. But, the work has just begun.
First, find a place to stay. Local disaster relief resources can point you to the appropriate charity housing. Make sure that family and pets are treated appropriately for any related injury or trauma. Once you are safe and settled, report your claim to your insurance company. Because your claim runs the risk of hitting roadblocks from the get-go, consult an attorney as soon as possible in order to ensure that you are getting the recovery funds to which you are entitled.
Even though you may feel as though your home is now in your insurance company’s hands, it is still your responsibility to secure your home, warding off further preventable damage that your policy may not cover. That being said, do not enter your home until it is safe to do so. There are many dangers that can still lurk in a home that appears to be sitting dormant post-fire. It is possible for fires to re-start or walls and roofs to collapse, so it is best to be cleared for entry by the fire department. Further, the fire department can provide guidance on the safety of utility use and other practical concerns.
When navigating your home, be accepting of damage that may be a symptom of fire treatment. Firefighters essentially cut holes into walls, smash windows, and inflict water damage. Those actions are necessary evils for ventilation and, of course, putting out the fire, ultimately retaining as much of the structure of your home as possible. Holes and broken windows will need to be boarded up to prevent intrusion, and if your house stands a good shot at being re-constructed, mop up any standing water to prevent mold growth. If the roof has collapsed, place a tarp over it to keep the remaining structure from being exposed to the elements. Keep in mind that your goal is to merely prevent further incident to the property – leave structural overhauls on hold until your insurance company has finished assessing the scene.
In a perfect world, you would have proactively learned the details of your insurance policy. Of course, that’s a tedious expectation. There are probably a lot of intricacies you wish you would have known prior to the fire, but hiring a lawyer can help close the learning curve. Lawyers can critically review your policy and do the negotiating for you when it comes to getting the proper compensation for your damaged home and lost property. Your lawyer may ask you for documents to assist in this project, including receipts for out of pocket repairs, as well as the fire report itself to verify the fire’s severity. You can request copies of the report from your local public records office. Obtain an extra report for your own records.
Finally, don’t forget to keep up with existing payments. While making mortgage payments on a house in which you are not immediately living may feel wasteful, bear in mind that if you keep your receipts, your insurance company can reimburse you for the costs of hotels and meals within reason. Thus, your monthly expenses will ultimately be the same as they were pre-fire. While you may not be thinking about, say, car payments at this time, try your best to keep up with these commitments to avoid digging yourself into a financial hole from which homeowner’s insurance may not necessarily be able to get you out – especially if you’re attempting to navigate your claim alone. It is important to accept help from charity, friends, and lawyers who make the path to recovery smoother, and ultimately, end in the most favorable result.