VALLEY — Many Costilla and Huerfano county residents are learning the devastating news that their homes have been lost or damaged by the Spring Fire. Even before homeowners are allowed to safely return to their properties, they will have insurance questions about the claims settlement process. The claims will range from minor smoke damage to personal property, additional living expenses, destroyed vehicles and homes.
“If you have suffered the loss of your home or return to significant damage caused by the fire, the first step is to contact your insurance company, “ says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. “It’s important to understand how your insurance works and the industry has many resources available to help Coloradans work through the claims settlement process. Evacuated residents should let insurers know where they are staying and ask about coverage for out-of-pocket expenses.”
Most insurance policies cover additional living expenses (ALE) if you are unable to live in your house or apartment because of a fire or other covered peril. Most policies will reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses, but do have set limits on the amount they will pay and may be subject to a deductible. There are different time frames and limits associated with additional living expenses, so it is important to keep receipts and check with your company to better understand how your ALE coverage works.
Residents with homeowners insurance have coverage under the policy limits to repair and rebuild the structure of their home, replace their personal belongings and additional living expenses if they need to live elsewhere while their home is being repaired or rebuilt. Make sure you are working with your insurance company’s adjuster (that’s who your contract is with) and a reputable contractor. Cars that are damaged or destroyed are covered under the optional comprehensive portion of your auto policy. Renters insurance pays to replace personal belongings up to the policy limits. Keep in mind that it is a process that needs to be worked through step-by-step, but there is plenty of assistance available to you through your insurance company and other financial service providers.
Insurance Claims Settlement Advice:
Download RMIIA’s Homeowners Insurance Claim Settlement Guide:
Wildfire & Insurance Background:
Tips for Selecting a Reputable Contractor
Don’t become a victim of disaster fraud. After a headline capturing fire or natural disaster, professionals often go from door-to-door in damaged neighborhoods, offering clean up or repair services. Many of these business people are reputable. Others are not. The dishonest ones may pocket payment without completing the job or use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code.
Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, materials, time schedule, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations should be detailed.
Demand references and check them out.
Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and license plate number.
Ask for proof that the contractor is bonded, carries liability insurance, and covers his/her workers with workers compensation insurance.
The contractor’s business card should have a verifiable street address and office phone number.
Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later.
Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished. Request a lien waiver indicating the contractor has paid its subcontractors and suppliers.
Insurance coverage may be rendered void if intentional misrepresentation by a policyholder is discovered.
If you believe you have been approached by an unlicensed contractor or adjuster, or have been encouraged to fabricate an insurance claim, contact your insurance company or call the National Insurance Crime Bureau Hotline at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422).
Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association is a non-profit consumer information organization that represents property & casualty insurers.