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How to File an Insurance Claim for Fire and Smoke Damage

By Luke Armstrong

While many of us have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policies that cover fire damage, deciding what to do after a property fire can be daunting. But property owners aren’t just dealing with damage from the flames, they will find that their building materials and contents will be covered in an oily, thick residue from smoke damage as well as wet surfaces from the fire hose.

While these materials will need emergency fire damage restoration services in order to save as much time and money in the repairs process, an insurance claim will need to be filed beforehand to cover the costs.

Damages Caused by the Smoke

Review and follow these tips to ensure everything goes smoothly during the claims process.

Even after the flames have been extinguished, the majority of the damage is still spreading from extra soot and smoke byproducts covering the household surfaces. Especially for porous materials, those

containing small holes like furnishings, wood, cements, and drywall will be the first to sustain permanent damage. Many will also produce a strong odor when burned, requiring powerful hydroxyl technology to be removed completely. In addition to these damages, the items listed below are also commonly known to require immediate cleaning with professional cleaning products:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Artwork
  • Photographs and books
  • Walls
  • Ceilings

As some of these will contain significant sentimental or monetary value, emergency treatment must be made right away to avoid replacing them.

How to File an Insurance Claim

As soon as the flames have been extinguished by the fire department, don’t wait to call your insurance company for help on covering the restoration costs. Follow these tips on how to do it:

  1. Call your insurance company.

    Jewelry is a common item for sustaining fire and smoke damage. It will need to be cleaned with commercial products.
  2. Review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. If you can’t find your copy, your company will provide one for you. Read the details regarding the coverage, deductibles, exclusions, limitations, and filing deadlines (if any).
  3. Gather all evidence (if possible). Never re-enter the home or building until it is cleared by the firefighters. If you are able to go in, take as many pictures or videos as you can. Except for the authorities, don’t allow anyone else in the property to avoid causing additional damage in the process.
  4. Call ServiceMaster for immediate smoke damage restoration. Never try to clean any of the soot or smoke residue yourself. A professional company like ServiceMaster will arrive within 2 hours of your first call, assess the damage, and determine the best plan for restoring the property.
  5. Gather all information needed to file the claim. You will need all of the following:
    1. Date of the fire
    2. Type of claim (or loss)
    3. Location of the damage
    4. List of injuries incurred for each individual affected
    5. Descriptive condition of the property
    6. Detailed list of destruction to the property
    7. Detailed estimates for necessary repairs, remediation, and replacement
    8. Police report
    9. Contact information
    10. Receipts for all repairs, restoration, and other costs
    11. Receipts for hotels and food if you were unable to move back in

      Gather all information for your insurance company to make the best estimate for repair and replacement costs.
  6. Don’t throw away anything. Preserving all evidence is essential to allow the claims process to run smoothly. If you have any receipts of recent purchases, warranties, titles, and other documentation, keep them all together, no matter their insignificance. The insurance agent will need everything to determine the most relative costs necessary to have them repaired or replaced.
  7. Verify timeline for each procedure when filling the claim. To ensure everything goes smoothly, you should be informed and receive updates throughout the repair process.
  8. Request everything in writing. As soon as they have estimated all necessary repair and replacement costs, everything must be provided to you in writing, including damage and destruction costs. This will provide proof of the damage before filing the claim.
  9. Do not sign until ready. Before signing any paperwork, make sure that you know exactly what and how it will happen; read the fine print, ask questions, and understand the document. You can also compare your own estimates to those made by the company.

Disaster Restoration

ServiceMaster’s fire damage cleanup technicians are both licensed and experienced to return all building materials and contents to their original conditions.

While time is of the essence to file an insurance claim for fire damage, the repairs and reconstruction of the property must also be done efficiently and effectively. You will want to pick a restoration company that is available during emergencies and has the capacity to finish all cleaning,restoration, and repair work in a timely manner.

A company such as ServiceMaster not only has these capabilities but has years of experience in restoring numerous homes and buildings from fire and smoke damage. Using specific commercial cleaning products for different materials, they can handle all parts of the reconstruction process, from the initial inspection to full reconstruction. They will also work with your insurance company during the claims process to allow you to focus on other matters. With these professionals, you can trust that everything will run smoothly when restoring a clean and safe environment within your home or building.