A fire in your home or business can be devastating. Not only will the fire destroy the structure, but you can sustain heavy smoke damage to the contents of the building. Be prepared for the event of fire by charting a full inventory of all appliances and electronics, antiques and jewelry and keep a copy at an off-site location, preferably with your insurance agent to help in filing a claim, should there be a loss.
Contact your insurance carrier or your agent as soon as a fire occurs so that the investigation and restoration can begin as soon as possible. Leave your contact information and any additional means to reach you such as a work phone number.
Protect your property from additional damage. This may include covering a hole in the roof or extracting water, and keep any receipts or expenses incurred to submit to your claim representative. Be aware that a deductible amount of $250 to $1000 that was chosen when you purchased your policy of insurance will be withheld from your total payment.
Preserve the scene by not allowing anyone other than contractors or public authorities to enter the building, and not allowing any items to be removed from the home.
Take photos or video of damaged property. This can eliminate any future burden of proof that the items were actually in the home at the time of the loss.
Inventory all items damaged by smoke. This would include items not damaged by fire, but that have a smoke odor or discoloration. Clothing, bedding, furniture, curtains, carpeting and rugs all absorb smoke odors and should be included. Air conditioning units, electronics, heaters and walls may also be damaged by the soot left by smoke. Marble and tile may become discolored and need to be refinished or replaced.
Submit your inventory and photos to the representative that has been assigned to handle your claim. Your representative will assign a restoration vendor to provide estimates of repair and replacement, and to begin the cleanup process.
Cooperate fully with any investigation requests or requests for proof of purchase or proof of replacement to ensure that your claim is processed smoothly and expediently.
If you live in an apartment complex, you may suffer smoke damage to your belongings even if the fire was not in your unit.
Westfieldinsurance.com provides a checklist of what to do in the event of a loss for personal and commercial claims. They also provide access to a personal property worksheet in excel format that can be very useful in creating your inventory before or after a smoke damage loss.
Do not use any electrical devices that have been exposed to smoke, water or fire as they may malfunction and cause injury.
Misrepresentations of value or items damaged can further delay claim payment and may result in a denial of your claim.
Keep in mind that filing a claim may increase the future premium amount you are charged for carrying this policy.