AUSTIN-The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) is urging residents in Bastrop County to listen to emergency officials and evacuate as the Hidden Pines Fire continues to threaten homes. So far, nine homes have been destroyed as the fire continues to grow potentially threatening more than 150 homes in the area.
“The first step is to listen to authorities and pack up and move out as quickly as you can, the next step is to contact your insurer if you’ve been asked to evacuate your home,” said Joe Woods, PCI’s vice president. “Generally, homeowners and auto insurance policies will cover property lost or damaged due to a wildfire, but it’s important to make that initial contact with your insurer to begin the recovery process if your home is destroyed by a wildfire.”
Key Insurance Elements for Evacuees to Remember:
• Follow your family evacuation plan and have all family members meet at one previously agreed upon location or call one relative or friend out of the area to communicate and plan next steps.
• Remember to bring eye glasses, medicines or other important items and prepare for your pet’s needs, bring leashes, food etc.
• If possible, prior to evacuating, policyholders should bring their important paperwork with them including a copy of their insurance policy. Policyholders should contact their insurance company immediately once they are evacuated.
• Policyholders who have lost their homes to the fires are immediately eligible for Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage which may reimburse for increased living expenses such as, lodging, clothing, toiletries and other necessities. Policyholders who are evacuated for a period of time by state or local officials, and do NOT lose their home, may also be eligible for ALE reimbursement if the home next door is damaged by fire, and civil authorities prevent you from returning to your home. Remember to keep your receipts so it will make the claims process easier.
Tips for Filing a Fire-Related Claim:
• Report all damage to your insurance company or agent as soon as you can in order to settle your claim more quickly and accurately.
• Make a list of all of the damage and any resulting expenses. Keep receipts for anything you buy so you can submit them to your insurance company later.
• Many standard homeowners and renter’s policies provide for reimbursement of additional living expenses when the property is determined to be uninhabitable due to damage. This provision helps in paying for increases to necessary living expenses such as temporary housing and restaurant meals. In addition, extra expenses such as overnight parking and laundry services may also be covered. Additional living expense coverage does not pay for all living expenses, so contact your insurance company or agent for a list of what your policy will cover.
• A homeowner should not throw things away until an insurance company representative has had a chance to assess the damage and make a claim report.