Lodi News-Sentinel - - State -

VALLEJO — For North Bay res­i­dents wor­ried about the calls, ques­tions, and pa­per­work as­so­ci­ated with deal­ing with their in­sur­ance and claims, con­sumer re­search group Value-Pen­guin have a list of six things they should keep in mind for the days ahead:

• Both the fire and smoke dam­age would be cov­ered by renters and home­own­ers in­sur­ance poli­cies. This in­cludes con­sumers’ phys­i­cal house down to the fur­ni­ture and per­sonal be­long­ings. The in­sur­ance pol­icy will cover them un­til their lim­its are ex­hausted.

Un­for­tu­nately, the in­sur­ance cov­er­age that con­sumers have right now is all they’ll have af­ter the fire. Pur­chas­ing a new pol­icy or amend­ing one will not be pos­si­ble un­til the bind­ing re­stric­tion passes. This can be as early as a few days af­ter the wild­fires have ended and will vary by the in­surer.

• Don’t throw away any re­ceipts for ho­tels, restau­rants, and travel: In­sur­ance com­pa­nies who of­fer Ad­di­tional Liv­ing Ex­penses cov­er­age will re­im­burse food and lodg­ing costs for res­i­dents who are forced to evac­u­ate. This cov­er­age also ex­tends to food spoiled or burned in the re­frig­er­a­tor.

• Sur­vey and doc­u­ment any dam­age — con­sumers should take pho­tos and videos of all dam­ages, and as­sem­ble a list of items that are de­stroyed or dam­aged, along with in­for­ma­tion on their pur­chase price or re­place­ment value to hand over to their in­sur­ance com­pa­nies.

• Con­tact the in­sur­ance com­pany to start the claims process as soon as pos­si­ble — com­pa­nies typ­i­cally beef up staffing, lengthen the hours of op­er­a­tion and send rep­re­sen­ta­tives to lo­cal dis­as­ter re­cov­ery cen­ters and com­mu­nity cen­ters dur­ing ma­jor events like this. How­ever, since in­sur­ers will be swamped with claims from oth­ers af­fected by the wild­fire, it is a good idea to get ahead of the line.

• Be wary of in­sur­ance scams and con artists — and work with a li­censed pub­lic in­sur­ance ad­juster: Crim­i­nals, im­per­son­at­ing pub­lic in­sur­ance ad­justers, typ­i­cally ap­proach wild­fire vic­tims as soon as the day af­ter the flames are out. Scam artists’ usual tech­nique is to ask vic­tims to sign over checks from their in­sur­ance com­pany, and pock­et­ing the money in­stead of us­ing it to pay con­trac­tors, leav­ing their vic­tims in the lurch.

Con­sumers should vet the pub­lic ad­juster they plan to hire to see if he or she is li­censed and reg­is­tered in your state’s data­base of li­censed.

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