TIPS FOR AFTER THE FIRE
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.