Wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes in Colorado have been reported under control, and residents are being allowed to return to their charred properties to assess the damage — and meet with insurance adjustors dispatched to evaluate the losses.
Generally, homeowners’ insurance policies consider damage or destruction of houses by fire, including wildfires, a “covered peril,” says Michael Barry, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group. The destruction of personal belongings is also typically covered, as is temporary housing while your home is repaired or rebuilt (keep receipts to back up your claim). Coverage limits, as well as deductibles — the amount you must pay before insurance pays — vary by policy. Damage to cars is generally covered under the “comprehensive” portion of your auto insurance policy.
The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association has published a brochure explaining the claims process after a natural disaster like a wildfire.
Dry conditions in parts of the South, Midwest and the West mean a continued risk of dangerous fires this summer, according to the National Interagency Fire Service. As a result, some communities have canceled fireworks displays for the Fourth of July holiday.
The Rocky Mountain association recommends steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of damage from fire. (Some insurers are increasingly requiring homeowners in high-risk areas to take such steps to secure coverage.) They include creating a safety perimeter around your home, by cutting back trees and shrubs, and laying down stone or gravel, to create a buffer around the house, and locating wood piles and propane tanks at least 30 feet from the home. State Farm offers an interactive tool with additional tips.
As is the case with any disaster, creating a home inventory ahead of time can also smooth claims for loss of your personal property. The Insurance Institute offers a free downloadable version of home inventory software on its Web site.
Have you ever filed a homeowners’ claim because of damage from a wildfire? What was your experience?
Re-posted from New York Times.