Property fires are complex events. The damage caused by smoke, soot, and fire can be extensive. Although insurance companies often pay something when a fire claim is made, rarely do they come place to paying what is needed to fully restore your property.
The unfortunate reality is most people do not protest when their fire insurance claim is underpaid. Instead, they try to make what they have been paid work.
When making a claim, I always tell people, “think of the premiums you have dutifully paid month-after-month and year-after-year.” Also, youe home is probably your biggest investment. You should protect it. You have given your insurance company thousands of dollars in exchange for the promise that they will make you whole. This promise is rarely reality because, sadly, insurance companies make money when they do not pay claims.
It is important for you as the policyholder to know that Insurance companies have an obligation to pay so you can bring your property to its pre-loss condition. Although most people are apprehensive about fighting their insurance company to recover what is owed, the reality is that people who fight back often recover more money
How Fire Impacts Your Home or Business
There is old saying that if your house catches on fire you should hope the whole thing burns down. This is because fires cause a complex set of damage that are difficult to diagnose. Fire damage leaves much more than a confined area where the fire started of damage. Smoke denigrates most of the items in your home including sheetrock, cabinetry, flooring, and your personal property Most of the items in your home are porous – they encapsulate the smoke. This means your home is no longer the same as it once was. The components of your home have been compromised. You need trained specialists to help you determine the true scope of damage.
Fires often impact and compromise important features of your home. You may have significant structural damage that requires the assistance of an engineer to determine what needs to be done to secure your property in a safe pre-loss manner. It is often not uncommon for fires to cause electrical, HVAC, and plumbing damage.
One of the more complex issues with a fire claim is how the extent of the damage interacts with local building codes. Many homes have features that are out-of-date and need to be updated to comply with local building codes. When you have a fire loss, often you are obligated to make those upgrades.
What Coverages Do You Have In Your Fire Insurance Policy?
Most standard fire policies issued in Mississippi include the following coverages:
- Dwelling: This provides coverage for damage to your structure or home.
- Other Structures: This provides coverage for things like your garage, shed, gazebo, or even a swimming pool.
- Personal Property: You likely have coverage for personal property damaged or lost in a fire.
- Additional Living Expenses or Loss of Use: This provides coverage for the additional expenses incurred do to you not being able to live or use your home. This includes rent, additional food expenses, and anything that is a new living expense.
You should also check your policy to see how much coverage you have for the following:
- Code Upgrades: Most homeowner’s policies include coverage to help get your property into compliance with building codes following a loss.
- Debris Removal: Debris removal can often be a big expense. Some policies include additional coverage for this item.
Most policies issued in Mississippi are replacement cost or RCV policies. This means that you should be compensated based on the cost to replace or fully repair your property. However, there is a big kicker. The insurance company typically can depreciate or hold back some of the money they pay you until the property is repaired or you have signed a contract to make the repairs.
The Fire Insurance Claim Process In Mississippi
The insurance claim process with a fire claim involves much more than calling your insurance agent and waiting for a check in the mail. If your property has been significantly damaged by a fire, you need to have a plan to maxmize your claim.
Planning Your Additional Living Expenses
Fires often leave you without a place to live for an extended period of time. Normally, the insurance company will pay you some money upfront so you can stay in a hotel while assessing the damage. Once your damage is assessed, you should get a good idea about how long it will take to make repairs. You should double the time you expect it will take to get back into your home because things will likely be delayed by insurance companies.
Many insurance companies will want you to use their preferred housing vendor to handle your housing needs. We always caution against using housing vendors because they often place you in a more expensive property.
We always suggest finding a furnished rental that will work for you for the duration of your claim. Do not rent anything that is too expensive and that will fit within your ALE coverage limits for an extended period of time.
Making a Dwelling Claim
Your dwelling claim is likely going to be your biggest ticket item assuming the fire originated in your home. Insurance adjusters tend to substantially undervalue fire damage claims significantly. We have had some fire claims where we have more than quadrupled the initial dwelling payment made by the insurance company.
We work with experts at estimating property damage to ensure that a thorough estimate is prepared with the same software used by insurance companies. Sometimes there will be complex issues with the property that will require an engineer or hygienist to issue subsequent reports. Once your property has been fully evaluated and a clear number for the cost of repair is determined, it is then important to submit a sworn statemen of proof of loss to the insurance company.
Failure to pay what is owed, can subject the insurance company to late payment penalties, attorney’s fees, and potential damages for bad faith.
It is important that the law is on your side. However, you have to make the best dwelling claim possible to recover the money owed to you.
Making a Contents Claim
Insurance companies grossly underpay contents claims following a fire. It is important for you to recognize that you have to make your contents claim. As we have discussed before, making a contents claim is no easy task. You need to take photos, create lists of damaged and lost items, and price out the items that you are claiming. Often times, the assistance of a contents specialist or attorney can go along way to help maximize your contents claim. It is not uncommon for us to recover tens of thousands of extra dollars for our clients just on their contents claim. The reason? We take the time to create the best contents’ lists possible and we submit proof of loss.
How Can a Mississippi Fire Damage Attorney Help?
If your Mississippi fire insurance claim has been delayed, denied, or underpaid, an attorney may be able to help you recover the money you need to rebuild right. The law can favor the policyholder if they present the claim correctly. Often times. fighting back pays for the homeowner.
Johns Law Group offers free consultations to Mississippi policyholders to help them understand their legal options when dealing with a delayed, denied, or underpaid fire insurance claim. Call us today for free information.