CHICAGO — As residents forced to evacuate wildfire areas begin to return home, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) urges homeowners and renters who experienced property damage to contact their insurer to begin the insurance claims and recovery process.
“Our thoughts are with those who’ve been impacted by these deadly fires,” said Hilary Segura, counsel, state government relations for PCI. “A wildfire is quite traumatic and can be life changing, but insurers are on hand to help with the recovery process. It’s also important to note that homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for additional living expenses that can move policyholders out of shelters and into a hotel room or rental property. The first step is to call your insurer and get the claims process started.”
Insurers have deployed emergency response teams to the affected areas. Insurers along with representatives of various state agencies have established a coordination center for residents at Boyd's Bear Country, 149 Cates Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN. Toll-free phone numbers for insurers operating in Tennessee can be found at: Insurer Toll-Free Policyholder Claim Phone Numbers. PCI also has an online Step-by-Step Home Insurance Claim Recovery Guide for wildfires.
While the recent rainfall helped to contain some of the fires, drought conditions continue to exist and the threat of fire remains. This week’s major wildfires serve as a reminder to all homeowners and renters to take a “Wildfire Reality Check” and ensure both your finances and property are prepared for wildfires.
• Read and understand your insurance policy. The typical homeowners policy covers damage caused by wind, fire and lightning. Comprehensive auto insurance generally covers damage or destruction to a vehicle from a fire.
• Review your insurance policy regularly with your insurance company or agent. If you have recently remodeled or built a new addition onto your property, be sure to increase the amount of protection to cover the upgraded materials or expanded square footage. Talk about types of insurance policies and learn the difference between a replacement cost policy, which generally provides for the repair or replacement of damaged covered personal property items, and an actual cash value policy, that will only provide reimbursement for the depreciated value of the covered personal property item. Decide which type of policy best fits your needs, and maintain adequate insurance, because once a wildfire turns into a fire storm there is little that can be done to halt its path of destruction. Make sure your policy reflects the right amount of square footage.
• Create and keep an inventory of your personal items and photograph or videotape them for documentation and claims purposes. Be specific: document how many TVs, computers, sets of towels and sheets, and other items you have. The more detail you record, the easier recovery will be. Keep receipts for major purchases and keep records of the age, current value, make, model and serial number of your personal property. Keep your inventory and a copy of your insurance policy at another location.