By the month of July, California had already experienced 4,991 fires in 2021. The smoke, soot, and ash from these fires cause damage to properties and health issues among Californians. If you live in an area affected by a recent wildfire, you can submit a smoke damage claim to your insurer. But before you ask yourself “can I claim for smoke damage?” Check your insurance policy to see if your homeowner’s insurance covers such incidents.
What Damages Can Smoke, Soot, or Ash Cause On Your Property?
If a wildfire misses your building, you are not entirely in the clear. Smoke, ash, and unseen byproducts from the flames can damage the following:
- Personal property: Appliances, clothing, artwork, furniture, rugs, and other items made with porous materials can absorb smoke. The smoke may give these properties an odor and even discolor them. Soot can also enter an appliance’s vents and destroy internal components.
- Landscaping: Soot on your garden or yard can suffocate the foliage and kill it. The cost of removing and replacing the dead plants can be high. However, you won’t have to pay for the landscaping restoration out of pocket if your insurance covers such property damage.
- Pools and hot tubs: Even if a fire doesn’t damage your pool or hot tub, smoke and ash can enter the installation’s sanitation system. If smoke enters the sanitation system, your pool or hot tub may malfunction and require costly repairs.
- Plumbing: If ash enters your water or drainpipes, it can accumulate and cause clogging. A clogged pipe can eventually burst, leading to indoor flooding.
- Heating and air conditioning systems: Soot in your HVAC’s internal or external components can compromise your indoor air quality and damage the unit.
- Solar Panels: Ash itself will settle on solar panels blocking sunlight, much like a heavy buildup of dust would do. The heavy ash or soot build up sediment has been known to stay on solar panels after mixing with moist and reduce power production by as much as 30%.
You can submit a smoke damage claim to cover your property’s cleaning cost. However, don’t use regular cleaners for the cleanup. Instead, hire a specialist fire and smoke restoration company.
How to Submit A Claim For Fire, Smoke, or Ash Damages
Homeowner’s insurance, business owner’s insurance, and renter insurance policies typically cover ash, soot, and smoke damage. If your policy covers such damages to your property, take these steps:
1. Document the Damage
Before contacting your insurance company, identify and document the damage to your property by taking pictures or videos. If the damage isn’t visible, get documentary evidence that proves the damage, such as an estimate from a smoke restoration company.
2. Submit Your Claim
If you take too long to submit your claim, your insurer may not accept it. Insurers also generally dismiss claims that don’t have these details:
- Date and type of loss
- Location of damage
- Police and medical report
3. Cooperate with Insurance Adjusters
After receiving your claim, your insurer will send an adjuster to assess the damage to your property. Provide the adjuster with complete access to your building and all the information they need. Make sure to point out the damages that you’ve identified.
Your insurer will determine if your claim is valid based on the report submitted by the adjuster. If the adjuster’s estimate of your losses is lower than your estimation, don’t hesitate to inform your insurer in writing and request a different adjuster.
If your insurer insists on offering compensation that’s below what you have lost, contact us to speak with a California wildfire lawyer. We will assess your case and guide you toward legal options for pursuing better compensation.
What if Your Insurer Rejects Your Smoke Damage Claim?
If your insurer rejects your claim, you can file a lawsuit if your claim was valid and you already provided everything needed to support your claim. You can also file a lawsuit if your insurer did not adhere to industry standards or acted in bad faith. Examples of an insurance company acting in bad faith include:
- Severely undervaluing your property.
- Reporting false information on your claim.
- Delaying processing your claim without just cause.
- Denying your claim for no concrete reason.
- Exploiting a contract loophole to avoid paying compensation.
- Failing to investigate your claim thoroughly.
If your insurer denies your claim due to an error on your part, we can fix it and resubmit the claim on your behalf.
Get Help With Your Smoke Damage Claim Today
Seeking compensation from your insurer after a fire should not be frustrating. However, insurance companies don’t always act in the best interest of their clients. If your insurer is frustrating your claim process, get in touch with us at Era Law, Inc.
Our California wildfire lawyers will evaluate your case and help you pursue maximum compensation for your property damage. Schedule a free consultation today.