What Should I Do After a House Fire?

Posted on February 16, 2024


Hayden Haskins | author

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ICHQ | Site Author

A house fire is a frightening, traumatic experience that leaves victims with fear and uncertainty.

They often feel lost and distraught, completely unsure of what to do next. This is a normal feeling, and the team at Insurance Claim HQ wants to help you work through it. Below, we offer a “what to do after a house fire” checklist for the steps you need to take, including seeking compensation from your insurance company.

Ensure Safety and Contact Authorities

First and foremost, get everyone out of your house and make sure each person and pet is accounted for. The personal safety of everyone is paramount and time is of the essence, so act quickly. Once everyone is out of harm’s way, let your family and friends know you are safe.

Then, call 911. Although you may attempt to put the fire out yourself, provided it is not too risky to do so, the fire department needs to come and make sure the fire is completely extinguished.

Fires can suddenly reignite and you may have several hot spots around the house where this could happen. Let the professionals do their jobs.

Next, be sure to get medical attention for all victims. Even if you or another person do not believe you have been injured, it is best to let a doctor make that call. Some victims suffer smoke inhalation and may not realize how serious this can be. Don’t jeopardize your health or your loved ones; ask for emergency medical assistance or see a doctor right away.

Finally, take pictures and record videos of the damage immediately. Memories can fade and you can quickly forget the damage that was done to your house and the items that were destroyed.

Plus, the strongest and most well-documented insurance claims are those where photographs and videos are recorded as early as possible after the loss. Take multiple pictures and videos from different angles and include a reference point, such as the street address on your house, to prove this is your residence.

Contact Your Insurance Company

It’s important that you then contact your insurance company right away. You should not yet destroy or throw out anything that was lost in the fire because the insurance company will need a chance to investigate. Ask the adjuster how to get started with the claim and where to send your pictures and videos. It’s also a good idea, at some point in this process, to separately record an inventory of the items lost and the parts of your home destroyed by fire. You should obtain a copy of the fire report as well and turn that over to your insurer.

Follow the insurance company’s instructions and be sure to check everything the adjuster or representative says against your policy. It is imperative that you quickly and correctly file the insurance claim, respond to requests for information from the insurer, and stay in constant contact. Don’t be afraid to call for updates, but also send follow-up emails or other written correspondence to document your communications with the insurance company.

Secure the Property

The fire department’s main concern is putting out fires, and they will do whatever it takes to accomplish this. This could mean breaking windows, kicking in doors, and putting a hole in your roof. Their job is only to extinguish the fire. It is the homeowner’s job to then secure the property, once it is safe. This is necessary for two significant reasons:

  • You need to keep burglars, animals, rain, and other elements from causing further damage to your home
  • Your insurance company will require you to mitigate the damage, meaning that you take reasonable steps to prevent it from getting worse or causing additional problems

Collect your valuables, even damaged ones, and move them to a safe place (including a storage unit, if needed). Put up plywood over broken windows and doors, or temporarily replace the door if possible. Lock up the premises and check on it regularly to ensure no one has broken in. Put a tarp or some other protective barrier over any holes in the roof so you don’t have the added complication of rain damage.

Recovery Process

Once you have taken pictures of lost or damaged items and the property itself, and you have made an inventory of the damage, call a professional fire restoration company. Be sure you inform your insurance adjuster and give them time to complete any investigations before you take this step. At some point, you will need to throw away destroyed items and replace what was lost. But make sure the insurance company knows about the lost items and that you have documented them. You will likely need to replace valuable documents like passports and birth certificates.

Keep records of all repairs made and their expenses. Also, be sure to update your contact information while you and your family are staying elsewhere. You especially need to confirm that your insurance company knows where to reach you, so let them know your mailing address. If necessary, obtain a temporary PO Box for this purpose.

Legal and Financial Considerations

If you are renting your home, you should inform your landlord of the fire right away. This step is necessary so the landlord can take action and work to repair the property. You still need to file an insurance claim on any personal property you lost, but make sure your landlord has the information needed so he or she can handle the property claim.

If you own your home, you will probably still need to continue making your mortgage payments.

Unfortunately, experiencing a fire does not necessarily mean you are no longer responsible for this obligation. The same is true if you are still making car payments or debt payments, for instance, on a credit card. Nonetheless, these and other creditors may offer temporary relief programs. At the very least, you should call them to explain your situation and see what assistance, if any, they can provide.

Your insurance company will give you information about your coverage, but as mentioned above, check the policy to be sure. Homeowners insurance generally provides compensation to help you repair or rebuild your house and replace the possessions you lost. But the exact details are a matter of your specific policy.

Remember to follow all instructions given by the claims adjuster as well as those contained in your policy. If you have questions about what your policy covers or you do not agree with the insurance company’s assessment, it’s time to reach out to an attorney. That’s where we come in.

Contact Our Experienced Homeowners Insurance Attorney

Most individuals are completely lost and unsure of what to do after a house fire. We want to help take some of the mystery and anxiety out of the situation. If your home was destroyed by fire and/or you lost valuable possessions, we can review your policy and help you better understand your rights and options. Then, we can get to work filing your claim and proving the value of your losses.

If the insurance company refuses to make a fair payout on your claim, we can escalate the matter by taking legal action. To get started or to learn more, call Insurance Claim HQ today.