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Frequently Asked Questions

1. We can't find our policy, or it was lost in the fire. What can we do?

Answer: Don't worry, if you purchased your policy through a broker, contact your broker for a copy of your policy. If you purchased it directly from an insurance company, contact them for a copy of your policy.

Start documenting your claim losses as thoroughly as you can.
It's important to get in the habit of taking notes of who you talk to, the substance of the discussion, and when.

2. We have a copy of our policy, but aren't sure what the limits are. How do we find out?

Answer: These coverages are usually set out on the Declarations Page of your policy.

Typical Homeowner's policy will have the following coverages:

a. Dwelling Coverage
b. Other Structures (typically detached garage); usually insured for up to 10% of the Dwelling Limits
c. Contents (Personal Property); usually insured for up to 70% of the Dwelling Limits
d. Additional Living Expenses; usually cover a period of 12 months but could be limited to 10% of the Dwelling Limits

3. Will our insurance cover a rebuild?

Answer: Typical homeowner's policies do cover the cost to rebuild or replace. Your broker should be able to tell you the answer quickly.

4. We need to find emergency shelter, and need meals and transportation. How are these covered, if at all?

Answer: These expenses should be covered under the section of your policy called "Additional Living Expenses." You most likely will be able to get cash advances to pay your expenses.

If you don't have a place to stay, you may have to get rental housing. All this is generally covered by your policy.

Possible items covered under "Additional Living Expenses":

  • Food costs
  • Housing Costs
  • Furniture Rental
  • Relocation and Storage Costs
  • Transportation Costs

Keep all receipts.

The most important thing is to get your family taken care of right away. Keep track of your expenses and submit them to your insurance company.

5. Are there any exclusions or conditions in the policy we need to be concerned about?

Answer: There very well may be important exclusions; either your broker or office can help you navigate through them.

6. My neighbor tells me we may have to upgrade our home when it is rebuilt. If this is necessary, is this covered?

Answer: Many policies will provide coverage for code upgrades. Find out if your policy has that through your broker. Some insurance companies will pay for that anyway even if it is not covered by the policy.

7. Our home was entirely destroyed in the fire. How can we be sure if it will be rebuilt for the amount the insurance company wants to pay us?

Answer: It will take a little bit of time to figure out how much it will cost to rebuild. The insurance company may bring in contractors to estimate the cost to rebuild your home. You should also bring in your own contractor and get a bid.

It is important to develop a written "Scope of Loss" (a detailed breakdown of all the items and services necessary to rebuild or repair your house) so everyone is on the same page as to exactly what damage is to be repaired/rebuilt. Ideally you should get the same quality that you had.

There may be some "Loss Adjustment" that takes place between you and the insurance company. We can help you with that process.

8. We lost a lot of our contents, or they were smoke damaged and unusable. Can we replace them? Will this be covered?

Answer: Smoke damaged items are typically covered under the "Replacement Coverage" section of the policy. Most policies have this coverage.

9. Our cars were destroyed in the fire. How are these covered?

Answer: Your auto is covered by your auto policy. The contents of your auto are typically covered by your Homeowner's policy.

10. Are there time limits in the policy we need to be concerned with?

Answer: As long as you notify your insurance company about your loss right away and keep good records during the process of determining your loss, you shouldn't have a problem with time limits.

11. What if the insurance company doesn't promptly respond to our claim. Do we have any recourse?

Answer: Yes, you do. The California Department of Insurance has issued laws stating that insurance companies have to respond within a reasonable time, typically 15 days. If the insurance company does not respond, call the California Department of Insurance (800-927-HELP (4357)) or an attorney to help you.

12. Can we have money advanced by the insurance company to pay for our immediate needs? What will they typically advance?

Answer: Every insurance company is different. All will generally advance money to rent a hotel room and to buy clothes. You can expect an advance of around $1,000. If you ask for more than that, be prepared to explain why you need more and be prepared to negotiate.

13. When it comes time for rebuilding, who will help us? Do we have to rely entirely on the insurance company?

Answer: You don't have to rely solely on the insurance company. You can call in a general contractor of your own. Sometimes it is hard to find one, especially in a disaster of this size since they are so busy with other requests for help, but use your broker or a lawyer as a resource to help guide you through the process.