There are many non-profit organizations that provide free assistance for Southern California fire victims who may have to negotiate with insurance companies. These include United Policyholders (http://www.unitedpolicyholders.org) and the Fire Safe Council (http://www.firesafecouncil.org). Go to these organizations first and seek their counseling and assistance immediately after a fire disaster.
However, even with this help, most homeowners still end up spending considerable hours adjusting their own claims. Many people decide they can adjust their own claims, while others elect to hire a professional public claims adjuster to represent their interest.
For those that have the time, and interest in doing things themselves, I offer the following tips if you ever suffer a loss to your property, whether from a wide-spread disaster or not.
1. Do not accept the first offer you receive from the insurer as a final settlement.
2. The insurer is required to pay you the “undisputed”
3. If an insurer pays you a portion of what you believe you are entitled to, you are free to accept that amount, and use those proceeds. This does not mean that you have accepted that amount as a final settlement. This simply means they have made a partial payment to you. The insurer is not supposed to add language onto a claim check that says you are accepting it is the final settlement amount.
4. Before accepting any final settlement offer from an insurer, be sure that the offer has been reviewed and analyzed against the insurance policy so that you know ALL insurable damage has been included and adequately addressed.
5. Do not speed through the process. While you may believe that the fastest resolution of your claim is best for you, it usually isn’t. The insurer needs adequate time to investigate the claim, this includes determining the total amount that is owed under all sections of your policy. Claims take a long time to settle. The more time and effort you spend valuing your claim, the higher your ultimate settlement will be.
6. Start your personal property inventory immediately. This will be a very lengthy, detailed and emotionally involved process. Your memory is best right after the loss, so start to compile your list of personal property immediately. It is very likely that you will not remember to list all of your items and several months later, while looking for certain things, you will determine they are gone – this is most often the case with partial losses.
7. The insurer will have a team of adjusters that will read and interpret the language of the policy as they believe it to be. I believe it is a natural conflict of interest for the insurer to attempt to represent the interest of the insured as well as themselves. The less money an insurer pays on a claim, the more profitable they are. It makes sense then to hire a licensed public insurance adjuster that will work on your behalf with a goal of settling for the maximum you are entitled to under the terms of the policy.
8. Does every loss require the expertise of a public insurance adjuster? No. There are many situations that you may not need a public insurance adjuster. The prudent thing to do is to talk to or meet with a public adjuster to discuss your specific loss and get their opinion.
9. How to select a public insurance adjuster - first and foremost, only talk to a firm that adheres to and operates under a strict Code of Professional Conduct – such as that of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (www.napia.com)
For more info, please call Quality Claims at 866/450-1183 www.qualityclaims.com
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About Quality Claims Management Corporation
Quality Claims Management Corporation provides hazard claim recovery services to investors, mortgage servicers, homeowners and businesses. All claims are adjusted by licensed insurance professionals for an equitable settlement and accelerated resolution timelines. Quality Claims is nationally licensed as Public Insurance Adjusters or Insurance Consultants and complies with Department of Insurance Regulations