4 Things You Need to Know About Smoke Damage Insurance Claims

House fires cause devastating damage – including smoke damage that may not be covered by your insurance policy.

All standard homeowners insurance policies cover fire damage. However, many insurers make it tricky to get compensation for smoke damage – which could cost thousands to remediate.

Smoke Damage Insurance Claim

Are you frustrated by your smoke damage insurance claim? We want to help.

After decades of working with fire and smoke damage insurance claims, here are some of our tips for a smoother smoke damage insurance claim.

4) Be Thorough When Documenting All Fire & Smoke Damage

A standard insurance policy covers fire and smoke damage to your home. However, you need to document this damage to receive compensation.

Document the following information to ensure you receive as much compensation as possible for a smoke damage insurance claim:

  • Date of loss
  • Type of loss or damage
  • Location of damage
  • Any related injuries or others involved
  • Condition of the home and a description of damaged contents
  • For contents, it is a good idea to have a photo or video made every year to include all rooms, closets, model and serial numbers for any appliances or electronics
  • Whether or not temporary repairs or complete replacements are necessary
  • A police and/or fire department report
  • A damage report from an IICRC certified fire remediation company

Insurance companies investigate your claim to verify the loss and estimate the cost of repairing the damage. The more evidence you can provide, the smoother your claim will be.

It’s particularly important to collect this evidence immediately after the damage occurs. If you’ve already removed damaged items from your property – like a burnt couch – then you may have no evidence of the loss. Take photos of every room and every item before moving it or throwing it away. It is best not to discard anything until you have written approval for the items from your insurance company.

As a policyholder, you are required to inform your insurance company within a specific period of time after a loss – say, within 10 to 30 days of the fire. The sooner you contact the insurer, the better.

As a policyholder, you must also complete other duties after a loss – like taking steps to prevent further damage. You should only make temporary repairs to protect your property until your adjuster has done their inspection. You should also be prepared for the insurance company to send out a Cause and Origin team, even if the fire department has determined the cause. The insurance company will want to subrogate the claim, if possible.

Get a good documentation system. Throughout the claim, you’ll likely exchange hundreds of emails and documents with your insurance company over the next few months. Get a binder or good storage system and keep things organized.

3) Understand Your Insurance Covers Flame, Smoke, Ash or Soot Damage

A typical homeowners insurance policy covers damage caused by wind, fire, and lightning. If your home is destroyed by a fire, then the insurance company would be obligated to up to the policy limit for a new home.

A typical insurance policy will also pay to replace or repair anything inside that home that may have been damaged by flames, smoke, soot, ash, and other byproducts of the fire.

Smoke damage is nasty and can affect virtually everything in your home.

Many of your possessions and furniture may need to be discarded – even if they don’t look badly damaged. Each household fire can have upwards of 2000 cancer causing agents in it.

Soot can spread quickly, cover things in many unforeseen places, and be hazardous to your health. It is important to note that the soot is also dangerous to your pets. Clean their feet and remove them from the property until it is thoroughly cleaned or repaired.

Thoroughly inspect your home for inconspicuous smoke and soot damage – even in areas where you don’t expect there to be damage. It could add thousands of dollars onto your fire damage insurance claim.

Fire and Smoke Damaging Home Next DoorDon’t forget about smoke damage from a house fire next door!

We frequently get asked about smoke and soot damage from a fire next door. If your neighbor had a house fire, then you could be entitled to receive compensation. Smoke from nearby properties can be brought into your home through your HVAC system.

Contact your insurance company for help navigating smoke and soot damage related to a fire next door. Many clients have received thousands of dollars in compensation to remediate smoke, soot, and ash damage – even if the fire didn’t occur on their property.

As with other fire claims, document all damage – like stained walls, sooty carpeting, visible damage to the ceiling, and any damage to your possessions or furniture.

2) Use Insurance to Hire Professional Cleaners For Smoke Damage

Once you’ve documented smoke damage from a fire and contacted your insurance company, you should hire professional cleaners or restoration crews to restore your home to pre-loss condition.

In more extreme cases, you may also need to pay to deodorize the house or replace insulation in the walls or attic.

Most insurance policies cover the cost of professional cleaning – including specialized cleaners that remediate fire and smoke damage. These companies often have specialized training by IICRC for smoke and fire remediation.

Check your insurance policy to make sure it covers a professional cleaning. Or, contact your insurer.

Don’t clean your home yourself! It’s unsafe – soot and ash can have lifelong health effects.

Professional cleaners have specialized equipment and personal protective equipment to stay safe as they clean your home. They can immediately get to work with industrial vacuum cleaners and carpet cleaners, for example, to clean smoke damage.

Many homeowners will try to clean up smoke damage themselves, only to realize that water-based cleaners make stains worse.

Plus, the smoke, soot, and ash can be loaded with toxic chemicals, and it’s unsafe and unnecessary to clean your home yourself after a loss. Contact professional cleaners or restoration crews for a more thorough clean.

1) For Optimal Claim Outcomes, Contact a Public Adjuster

Insurance companies want to pay as little for smoke damage claims as legally possible.

Many insurers also have biased views on the extent of smoke damage caused by a fire. They may claim you had existing smoke damage, for example, or accuse you of failing to mitigate damage.

Do you feel that your insurance provider is reducing or denying your smoke damage claim insurance claim?

Some claims are denied for good reasons, but many claims are completely ambiguous and arbitrary.

If your home has thousands of dollars in smoke damage, then it may be in your best interest to talk to an experienced public adjuster.

Schedule a Free Consultation

Public adjusters typically work on claims with a disputed amount over $10,000. If your home experienced significant smoke damage, then a public adjuster could help.

Remember: smoke damage can have lifelong effects on the health of your family. Contact a public adjuster today by scheduling a free consultation with ClaimsMate.

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