California Fire Insurance Benefits: How to Improve Claim PayoutsNovember 26, 2018
More than 250,000 acres have been ravaged by the November 2018 wildfires in California,1 making it one of the most destructive fires in state history. While recovery teams continue searching for the more than 100 people who are still missing, others have begun to pick up the pieces, embarking on the incredibly difficult tasks of evaluating the devastation, cleaning up the wreckage and restoring communities.
In all likelihood, it will take several months to gain a clear picture of just how much damage these fires caused. Early estimates, however, indicate that the total costs of fire-related damages are at least $2 billion.
For those who have suffered losses from these fires, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to put a price on their losses, and financial compensation may never truly replace what they have lost. If these victims have fire coverage under their homeowners’ insurance policy, however, they can file claims to pursue the benefits that may provide the key to rebuilding their lives.
To help these victims recover the full benefits they deserve, the following shares some essential tips for payouts from fire insurance claims.
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Getting the Benefits from Fire Loss Claims: What California Homeowners MUST Know
- Be prepared for the insurance company to underestimate your home replacement costs – When it’s time to rebuild fire-ravaged homes, insurers typically evaluate the costs based on the original purchase price of the home, the value of homes in the area and the size of the home. What they commonly overlook or understate, however, are the costs of:
- Permits, zoning fees and architect fees, which are inherent to the homebuilding process
- Material and labor, especially when these resources are scarce and more expensive due to communitywide devastation
- Inflation and/or home upgrades, which are often overlooked when a home insurance policy has not been updated for years.
So, don’t trust your insurance company to accurately assess your home replacement costs. When insurers provide estimates for these costs, take a careful look at how they came up with the price to make sure they are not overlooking some of the key costs of rebuilding.
- In the event of total loss, you have the right to relocate or rebuild in a new location – As of September 2018, a new California law2 makes it illegal for insurers to reduce or deny homeowners’ benefits if homeowners, who have experienced a total loss, choose to move to or rebuild in a new location (like a community less prone to wildfires).Despite this current law, however, insurers may not openly disclose this information – and they may even still try to undercut or deny benefits when homeowners exercise this new right. If, however, you are aware of your rights, you can take the proper action to protect them and hold insurers accountable for violating your rights.
- You have up to 24 months to file a lawsuit related to a fire loss claim – Another new California law in effect since September 2018 and applicable to fire insurance claims pertains to the time limits for filing lawsuits related to these claims.3 In fact, this new law doubles the time limits for filing fire loss-related suits associated with states of emergency, extending it from previous 12-month limit to the now-established 24-month limit. This effectively gives policyholders more time to take action against insurers when they mishandle fire loss claims, issue wrongful denials or otherwise act in bad faith.
- Don’t forget about coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) – ALE coverage comes into play when displaced homeowners need to pay for temporary housing as their homes are repaired or rebuilt. Typically, homeowners’ policies dictate that ALE coverage provides (reimburses) for the costs associated with maintaining a “comparable standard of living.” In the case of communitywide fire damage, however, the high demand for alternative housing can lead to far higher rents and leases, meaning that it can cost far more for homeowners to try to maintain the same standard of living while they are displaced.Recognizing this, some insurers can be open to negotiating ALE coverage limits. The key here is to understand your ALE limits and to work with insurers before spending huge amounts of money on temporary housing so that you can be sure you’re entitled to reimbursement.
- Before filing a claim or accepting benefits, carefully review your policy with an experienced insurance claim attorney – This is the single most important step to take after major property damage and before you settle any claim with your homeowners’ insurance company. That’s because going over the details, terms and exclusions of your policy with a trusted insurance lawyer can help you:
- Clearly and fully understand your rights and your insurers’ obligations
- Avoid missing deadlines or doing anything that may compromise your claim or reduce your benefits
- Obtain the insights necessary to pursue the full compensation you deserve and improve your fire loss benefits.
Set Your Fire Loss Claim Up for Success: Contact an Insurance Claim Lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm
An experienced insurance claim lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm is ready to partner with you when it’s time to file a claim and seek the full recovery you deserve.
Call (713) 352-7975 or Email Us for your FREE Consultation
In a free claim evaluation, we will answer your questions and advise you on how to move forward in order to protect your rights, as well as the strength and value of your claim.
At Amaro Law Firm, we are dedicated and proud to represent everyday citizens who face an uphill battle against insurance companies. We know exactly:
- How the insurance business works
- What strategies insurers use to minimize payouts and deny claims
- How to effectively combat these tactics so our clients can obtain the compensation to which they are entitled.
Relentless and strategic, we are fully committed to you and your rights to fair and just insurance benefits. The Amaro Law Firm’s longstanding record of successfully resolving various types of insurance claims has earned us 5-star ratings on Google and Facebook, as well as glowing testimonials from former clients.
1: According to the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
2: CA AB 1800 Fire Insurance Indemnity
3: CA AB 2594 Fire Insurance