Fire Damage and The Insurance Claims Process

The Basics of Handling Fire Damage Insurance Claims

By Dan Chavez – President of Chavez Restoration & Cleaning

Restoration Advocate

After a lifetime of working fire damage restoration projects:

First as a technician, then as a crew leader, and eventually as a supervisor, I have a wide array of experiences with hundreds of adjusters. As well as experience with thousands of claims. As a company, we have become to be known as “Your Restoration Advocate” in fire and water damage restoration services.  I am sharing this valuable information to assist anyone that may have suffered a fire & smoke damage loss. This information may help others to become their own advocate throughout the claims process.

These basic fire damage survival tips are at the core of some of the issues that I see repeated during the restoration process.

1: Be your own advocate

Fire Damage Restoration

Realize that you have the most to lose if the repairs are incomplete. Your insurance company’s representatives inherently may make you feel guilty for spending your policy dollars. They are looking to repair or replace in the most cost-effective way possible, even if it is to your detriment.

A: Understand the entire scope of damage and the recommended remedies; do they make sense to you?

B: It’s important to know the parameters of your policy coverage and your options for repair or replacement.

C: Try to determine time frames for repair, and how it will impact you.

D: Your insurance company’s costs should be secondary to your time and your hassles.

E: From the first day to the last day, ask questions and consider the answers. Don’t be afraid to ask; “Why?”

F: Never let a contractor begin work until they have answered two simple questions; “How soon can you start? How long will it take you to finish the repairs?”

Key Point: Be clear, be firm and stand strong

2: Many insurance companies try to force you into their “preferred vendor” program for the repairs of your property.

Whatever way the concept is sold to you; the bottom line is that the vendor programs are designed to save your insurance company money. Your insurance carrier will promote it as easier for the policyholder; they take care of everything with the “one call does it all” approach.

What your insurance carrier may not tell you is that once you sign on with their “preferred vendor”, you have will have little to no control of the restoration process from that point on. You will no longer have control over who comes into your property to complete the repairs. Many times, the policyholder will be left out of the complete details of the repairs. These details may include what gets repaired, the estimated time frames, as well as the final cost of repairs.

After fire damages your property, who completes restoration is completely up to you as the property owner.  You should not feel forced to choose one restoration company over another. However, your insurance representative will try hard to push their “preferred vendor” onto you. This may be only to save your insurance carrier money. By cutting corners to save costs, these preferred vendors may not completely return your property to pre-loss condition.

When choosing a restoration company and a “preferred vendor” is suggested by your insurance carrier, ask yourself:

A: Was the insurance company’s vendor suggested to you because the quality of their work? Or were they hand-picked because they are a savings tool for your insurance company?

B: From a vendor’s perspective, will you be the client? Or will the insurance company be their client, and you just a job?

C: If the insurance carrier is the vendor’s direct client, will the “preferred vendor” have your best interests in mind? Or will it be the interests of their client… the insurance carrier?

D: Whether it was explained to you or not, it is your choice who does the repairs in your home.

E: Your insurance company’s effort to save money shouldn’t be your burden or your hassle. This can result in lasting detriment for you if repairs are not full and complete.

Key Point: Do not assume that your insurance company’s “preferred” vendor would be your preference as a contractor. Their vetting process will be different that yours. Sometimes thriftiness can be a good thing, but as the policyholder, you should be the one making that call!

3: The curse of the third-party claims management:

Some insurance companies have outsourced their claims adjusting process to 3rd party independent claims management companies. Outsourcing keeps their staffing costs down, and distances them from negative feelings from the adjusting side of their business. They won’t be the one telling you no. They will say “It’s out of their hands”. Third party claims companies make their living by cost cutting; unfortunately, the quality of the work from repair vendors, preferred or not, usually goes down as well.

What to look out for with 3rd party independent claims management companies:

A: If dealing with a 3rd party claims management, address any quality concerns directly with your adjuster. Fundamentally, you will be better served by your insurance company’s adjuster; they have more to lose if you are unsatisfied.

B: Third-party claims personal will adjust “over the phone”. Most times, without a site visit, or a complete understanding of your loss, which can and will complicate your claim.

C: Restoration companies, contractors, and sub-contractors may get “squeezed” in the cost-cutting efforts. Many times, they are forced to choose between making a profit or doing a quality job for you.

D: Your insurance company’s phone adjuster or manager will have the ability to override decisions made by the third-party claims handler if you are unhappy. Unfortunately, they will not tell you about this!

E: Strict enforcement of their payment guidelines may reduce the scope or quality of your restoration service.

Key Point: If you are getting the run around from a third-party claims company, go to your insurance agent first. Ask for your company’s claims manager to report your problem! When discussing your claim with your insurance carrier or a 3rd party claims manager, there are three points to remember. Be clear, be firm and stand strong!

4: Understand that your homeowner’s policy is a legal and binding contract:

Your insurance policy is like all legal contracts, they are designed to leave little wiggle room. Please keep in mind:

Stove Fire

A: Insurance companies are not doing you a favor when they “cover” your loss.
If it’s written into their policy/contract, the insurance carrier is obligated to provide the necessary coverage . The common insurance policy/contract is to return your property to pre-loss condition and make all necessary payments to do so.

B: Despite the “feel good” marketing your insurance company employs, they will follow their policy to the letter. Words and phrases like; “just because”, “to be fair”, “nice guy”, etc. will not be in your contract.

C: Whether storing or borrowing the property of others. The policy will not commonly cover damaged items that are not your personal property, unless noted otherwise within the contract.

D: You have two individual policies within a typical homeowner’s policy heading. One extends coverage for your structure and the other covers your personal property, each with separate limits.

E: If there are questions of policy, coverage limitations, exclusions, Etc., ask your representative to “email” you the written documentation. If their information is correct, they shouldn’t have an issue sending the documentation.

Key Point: Friendly smiles, handshakes, and feel good jingles are the sales side of your insurance company. The claims side of the business will have different goals, and they will live by the letter of the contract!

5: Working with an adjuster:

Close the file, and satisfy your needs, if possible. These are the goals of your insurance adjuster. They will sometimes negotiate between you as the policyholder and their boss or underwriter to find a final settlement. Like a car salesman, they would prefer you pay more for less. Your insurance carrier may prefer you settle for less than more.

A: Adjusters are not the insurance company’s concierges. Their chief goal is not to make sure you have everything you need. Or to ensure that you are comfortable and happy for the duration of your claim.

B: Be yourself when working with an adjuster. Being adversarial or trying to make friends will seldom help or hurt the situation.

C: Your adjuster notices that your house is in disrepair or has other obvious liabilities. As a result, you may expect to be non-renewed or hit with a rate increase letter later; insurance companies are always looking to limit their liabilities.

D: Some adjusters may have preconceived notions when deciding how much they are willing to spend based on your neighborhood. Other Considerations may be the diminished value or condition your home or contents.

Key Point: Adjusters are just people, so some will be friendly, and others will not. Some will be confrontational, and others will not. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, if you don’t, no one else will!

6: If your home suffered significant damage and were unlivable, ask about policy provisions like “additional living expenses” (A.L.E.)

This is a common component of most property owner’s insurance policies. Costs related to being temporarily displaced are usually paid for by the A.L.E.. If you are going to be out of your home for an extended period of time, pay close attention to what is available. Ask for what you are entitled to, as a part of your policy coverage. When addressing your A.L.E. benefits with your adjuster, be sure to remember:

A: Ask about additional payments to cover hotel, apartment or house rental.

B: This coverage will reimburse you for the extra food expenses above and beyond your average weekly or monthly spending.

C: Ask about mileage or gasoline cost above and beyond typical usage.

Key Point: This is what an insurance commercial may sound like. “My adjuster will explain everything that I am entitled to in great detail. Then they will follow-up to make sure I have everything I need”. It may work that way in TV commercials. However, in the real world, you usually only get what you ask for… or demand. Ask detailed questions and be the advocate for yourself and your family.

7: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Unfortunately, this is not the way the process is supposed to work. Nothing will change f you are unhappy and do not address these issues with your insurance carrier. It may be counter to your personality, but it’s the vocal minority that will get what they seek.

A: Your goal is to return your property to pre-loss condition. If you are willing to settle for less than you are entitled to, the insurance carrier will gladly accommodate. Speak up when you are unsure or dissatisfied.

B: Be clear if you have a complaint or complaints.

C: Keep a list of questions to ask and document the answers. Log what was said and when it is said. Logging all of the events throughout the restoration and claims process may benefit you more in the end.

D: Get names, numbers, email addresses, etc. of every person you come in contact with throughout the process.

E: If something doesn’t make sense, seems wrong, creates a bigger hassle for you, etc., don’t mince words. Explain the problem and demand a solution.

Key Point: Be pleasant and be clear, but be prepared to be strong if you have a problem during the claims process!

Final observation:

If you’ve had a fire, it can be a troubling and traumatic experience, even on a small scale. Don’t expect your insurance company’s personnel to be compassionate, supportive or even reasonable! The insurance claims process can be challenging even with their best people and best intentions. It can be downright devastating without their willingness to help you restore your home. We will help you become your own advocate. The only person you can count on to understand the problem, work hard to find solutions and to guarantee your happiness, in the end, is you!

Chavez Restoration & Cleaning is Your Restoration Advocate. We will be there to help you be your own advocate!

We pride ourselves on professionally restoring our client’s property while meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations. It is more than just our philosophy; this is a daily practice at Chavez Restoration.

-Dan Chavez, President – Chavez Restoration & Cleaning 

Winter Tips to Avoid Disaster

“Protect your home or business with just a few simple and inexpensive measures.”

Winter Tips

“What Steps Can I Take to Reduce My Risk of Property Damage From Freezing Weather?”

Winter weather can cause some serious damage to your property:

Winter brings with it the potential for cold weather-related property damage. While we can’t control the freezing weather, Chavez Restoration would like to share a few things you can do to protect your home or business with just a few simple and inexpensive measures.

What Steps Can I Take to Reduce My Risk of Property Damage From Freezing Weather?

Winterize all outdoor sources of water:

Damage may happen to your outdoor spigots if the water is not turned off and the hose not removed. Be sure to empty and store the hose, and cover the tap with a suitable winter-weather resistant cover.

Clear all gutters of leaves, twigs, and debris:

A blocked downspout may cause water to back up and form an “Ice Dam.” The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause expensive damage to the property’s roof, insulation, walls, ceilings, and floors.

Test your sump pump and lubricate the float mechanism:

Regular testing of your sump pump and lubrication of the device will help ensure that your sump pump will be working correctly at the time it is needed most.

Inspect and address the foundation of your property:

Cover all unnecessary exterior vents and fill any cracks around your home’s foundation. Cover drafty basement windows with an insulating material. These steps will help prevent heat loss and cold air intrusion. These steps may also help keep wildlife out from the inside of your property.

Address any plumbing that is close to the exterior of your home:

Using heat blankets, insulating sleeves, foam covers or heated pipe wraps to insulate the outermost pipes within your home.

Keep the temperature of your property above freezing:

Set your thermostat at a minimum of 55 degrees, especially when you’re gone for the day or away for a long time. If you program your thermostat below 55 degrees, you may risk damage to the plumbing closest to your exterior walls.

Frozen water pipe caused this frozen flood

In the event of power outages during freezing weather:

When the source of heat is affected by a power outage, it is a good idea to slightly open your faucets to allow a small trickle of water to drip. This will keep the water within your pipes moving and lower the risk of frozen pipes.

If you are leaving your property for an extended period during freezing weather:

In the event of an extended absence or long-term power outage, we suggest turning off your main water supply and draining the water from your faucets. Opening the cabinets under the sink will also allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes. These steps will help reduce the risk of water freezing in the pipes, limiting the chance of the pipes breaking.

You NEED Chavez!

We hope these Winter Tips helps you to avoid disaster, however, if disaster strikes… You NEED Your Restoration Advocate – Chavez Restoration & Cleaning.

What to do if you have a problem? First address the source of your water issues. Second, the size of the affected materials and area often determines whether you can dry it yourself or if you need a professional. If you have questions, we are glad to help! We always offer free consultations.

Chavez Restoration emergency response technicians have been drying homes and businesses in Northeast Kansas for since 1967.

Just a phone call away, we are available around the clock 24/7/365.

We are proud to be Your Restoration Advocate.
When quality matters… you NEED Chavez Restoration & Cleaning!

The Drying of Hardwood Floors

“If you are thinking that this is the end of your beautiful floors… It may not need to be this way!

hardwood floor drying, drying wood flooring

Your Image is the result of your investment of time and money:

With everything you have invested into your home or  business to achieve your look and style while make a lasting impression, you may not know what to do when disaster strikes! One major investment not to overlook is your beautiful hardwood flooring. In the event of water damage, professionally drying hardwood floors can save your investment.Chavez Restoration - Hardwood Floor Drying - Bowling Alley

Hardwood floors can bring your entire home together with a sense of grace and class. For a business, hardwood floors may be an essential component to their business, such as the hardwood floors of a bowling alley or gymnasium.

When disaster strikes:

It may happen at any time… and for one of many reasons… it could be from a leak in your roof, a broken washing machine water supply line, a compromised window or even the water line that leads to your ice maker, if you have not yet had damage from a water loss… chances are, you will!

With the time, effort and money we place into our hardwood flooring, the best action is to proactively prepare for when disaster strikes and your hardwood floors become flooded. When unprepared for a water loss, you may think this is the end of your beautiful floors… It may not need to be this way! Professionally restoring your hardwood floors after a water loss may be a much more efficient option with much less hassle.

Hardwood Floor DryingWhat does water do to hardwood floors?

Hardwood flooring that remains wet for prolonged periods of time may suffer damage by permanently warping, cupping or swelling. As water damage happens to Hardwood Floors, it is best to act fast!

Professional water damage restoration services, like Chavez Restoration & Cleaning, handles all types of water damage losses. However, when it comes to hardwood flooring, professional water damage restoration services are not the same… Be cautious when choosing which company to restore your property, some may not have response time, the state of the art equipment or the experience to properly restore your investment.

How can Chavez Restoration help?

Be proactive! Understand that To help avoid permanent damage to your hardwood flooring, the best offense is to have great defense.  When disaster strikes, Chavez Restoration should be the call to make!  we offer prompt and professional 24-hour emergency response!

With specialized drying equipment, fast response, and proper inspection and assessment we are able to save most water damaged hardwood flooring. While efficiently mitigating the excess moisture trapped within the wood, daily monitoring  will be conducted throughout the process. This will allow our technicians to ensure the hardwood flooring will dry evenly, and returns to the “dry standard” moisture levels which has been determined upon the initial inspection.

A flooded hardwood floor may not need to be removed and replaced. With a proactive plan of action that includes a professional and timely response to remove the water, mitigate the excess moisture and return your property to pre-loss condition, you can rest assured that your hardwood flooring is dry, because it is “Chavez Certified Dry.”

Chavez Restoration - Hardwood Floor Removal

What if I know my wood floors are beyond saving?

Occasionally, when water has saturated hardwood floors for too long, the water permeates the pores of the wood, causing the wood to swell, buckle and warp beyond salvage through restoration.

When this happens, the wood structure will need to be removed in order to be replaced.  Chavez Restoration technicians are experienced and skilled at dismantling hardwood flooring with minimal risk to the surrounding structures.

We Offer Free Consultations:

We understand that you may have questions about how to handle this type of water damage on your own, and when it may be time to call the professionals. If you have a question, or would like to learn more about our water damage restoration services, please give us a call today. We always offer free damage restoration consultations.

When it’s important…
when quality and experience matter…
you NEED Chavez Restoration – Family owned and proudly serving Northeast Kansas since 1967!

Article written by:
Daniel Berthiaume – Chavez Restoration & Cleaning

The Aftermath of Protein Fires

Protein Fires!

Protein Fire

With the holidays around the corner, everyone is preparing for their family get-together! A major facet of these family events is the “Holiday Dinner.” Occasionally, as these events tend to produce more memory making family stories, the holiday dinner may become forgotten about… in the oven!

So…. You’ve overcooked your goose!?!

Even the neighbors can smell!

Pun intended… but meat and poultry that has been burned or ignited will leave a FOUL odor no that one can ignore!

While many times lacking a visible presence (black soot), residues generated by severely overcooked meat or food items can and will emit a nauseating odor. These smelly mishaps are referred to as protein fires and they can leave an almost overpowering and long-lasting odor problem.

The source of the lingering odor must be removed!

The first step of the restoration process begins with determining the full extent of the damage. Unlike a typical “paper or wood” fire, there won’t be much in the way of visual residue. The resulting protein residue that permeates your house will have a very high odor content. As with any odor problem, the first step in deodorizing is removing the source that’s causing the odor.

There is no substitute for experience!

In some instances, you may be able to tend to the cleaning and deodorization on your own with the use of household cleaning agents. However, tracking down the invisible residues which may be the source of the odors may be a tough task to accomplish.  When the job of cleaning up and deodorizing after a kitchen or protein fire is beyond your abilities, it may be time to seek help from the professionals. Fire damage restoration industry professionals, Like Chavez Restoration, utilize decades of fire damage restoration experience, professional grade cleaning agents and state of the art deodorization equipment to return your property to it’s pre-loss condition.

If a protein fire happens:

When a protein fire happens, first; properly extinguish the flames or call your local fire department to put out the fire. After the fire is out, and everyone is safe.. Call Your Restoration Advocate – Chavez Restoration. We can help get your life back on track with our 24-hour emergency response to your fire damage, available 365 days a year!

At Chavez Restoration, we’ve been solving customer’s problems since 1967. Our fire response technicians are trained to identify problems, mitigate damage, then quickly and efficiently put your life back on track! We pride ourselves on professionally restoring our client’s property while meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations. It is more than just our philosophy; this is a daily practice at Chavez Restoration.

When quality matters… tell your insurance carrier that you need Chavez Restoration!

Stove Fire

Article by:
Daniel Berthiaume – Chavez Restoration & Cleaning

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