Having a fire at your home can be an extremely stressful event. Items not damaged by the fire can still be ruined by smoke or could be soggy with water used to put out the fire. Anything you can salvage will probably still require careful cleaning. There may be broken windows or holes cut in the roof by firefighters as they try to save your home. Fires can be damaging to your health and the health of your family as well. Fire ash can irritate the skin, nose, and throat, causing nosebleeds and chronic coughs. Fine particles from the ash can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, aggravating conditions like asthma, and making breathing difficult. Fire damage restoration can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months; while minor damage may only take a couple of weeks, extensive damage can take as long as a year. Since you want to move back into your home and begin rebuilding your life, it is hoped that your insurance company will cooperate, helping you get your life back on track as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Insurance companies may delay your settlement, stretching out the time you are not in your own home. The insurance company can also deny your claim altogether or offer you an amount that won’t begin to repair all the damage. At a time when you and your family are already displaced and distressed, a recalcitrant insurance company can compound your devastation. Having an experienced Texas fire damage claim attorney from Gulf Coast Insurance Attorneys can make a significant difference in the outcome of your home fire.
How Do Home Fires Often Start?
According to State Farm, there were 356,500 home fires in the United States in 2020. The number one cause of home fires is cooking, followed by faulty heating systems, hazardous electrical systems and lighting, intentional fires, and smoking. Cooking fires often occur when forgotten food is left simmering on the stove, or when there are things near the stove that can catch on fire (oven mitts, wooden utensils, curtains, or food packaging).
Older space heaters that don’t turn off automatically when tipped over or overheated are the second most common cause of home fires, along with chimneys that have not been cleaned and inspected, fireplaces without a screen, older furnaces, and flammable liquids used to start fires in wood stoves or fireplaces left close to the fire.
Homes that are older are more likely to have faulty wiring that can inadvertently start a home fire. Arc faults are the result of an electrical short that produces hot sparks that start a fire. An arc can also occur in a frayed extension cord or an appliance cord. Power surges can also damage appliances, resulting in a home fire. Warning signs of faulty wiring include discoloration around electrical outlets, lights that flicker, a burning odor, and blown fuses.
People who smoke inside—and particularly those who smoke in bed—are at a higher risk of a home fire. When a cigarette is not out all the way, it can start a fire, and smoking cigarettes around medical oxygen is never a good idea—even when the oxygen is turned off, it can catch on fire. Around the holidays, Christmas trees are another cause of home fires. When the lights on the tree are left on, the dry pine needles can catch on fire while the family sleeps, causing a potentially deadly fire.
What Types of Home Damage Can a Fire Cause
Home fires can cause all sorts of home damage, including the following:
- Broken windows, either from the fire itself or from firefighters breaking windows as they try to put out the fire.
- Flame damage can destroy interior walls, ceilings, floors, and the appliances and belongings inside the house.
- Smoke damage can leave items not damaged by the flames with a smoke smell that may never go away. Smoke can be very tough to clean, and can discolor flooring, walls, and ceilings.
- Third-party damage occurs from the attempts to put out the fire. The water used by firefighters can damage belongings and appliances can damage flooring and cause mold to grow on walls, ceilings, and under flooring. Chemicals in fire extinguishers can cause health hazards long after the fire has been put out.
- The heat from your house fire can cause cracks and holes that allow damage from rain and other weather issues, and even when these cracks and holes are repaired, they could mask a weakened and compromised home structure.
What Fire Damage Will My Insurance Cover?
Homeowners insurance usually helps pay for repairs to your home and will typically replace unattached structures on your property as well as at least some of your belongings. The dwelling coverage under your homeowner’s insurance policy covers your home, as well as attached structures, such as your garage. If your home is uninhabitable following the fire, your insurance may pay for costs associated with living away from your home while it is being rebuilt (hotel and restaurant expenses).
“Other structures” coverage helps pay for the damage or destruction of structures that are not attached to your home, including sheds, greenhouses, detached garages, and fences. Your personal belongings are usually covered up to a certain amount. This coverage would pay for damaged or destroyed personal items like furniture, appliances, clothing, musical instruments, electronics, jewelry, etc. It is important to look at the amount of your coverage from time to time to ensure you have sufficient coverage in the event of a fire or other type of home disaster. Some homeowner policies also help cover landscaping, reimbursing you for some or all of the value of trees and shrubs.
What Are Reasons Insurance Companies Deny Fire Claims?
Some insurance companies deny, delay, or devalue claims simply as a matter of course to protect their own financial bottom line. If your insurance company is acting in bad faith, you need an experienced Texas fire damage claim attorney from Gulf Coast Insurance Attorneys. Sometimes, however, there are other reasons a claim could be denied, including:
- The insurance company may claim that you misrepresented certain facts of your claim. As an example, suppose you were smoking in bed and fell asleep. The burning cigarette caught the bedding on fire, and then spread quickly. You are afraid the insurance company won’t pay if you tell them the real reason, so you are less than honest about the cause of the fire. Once the issue is investigated, the insurance company finds that you misrepresented the cause of the fire, so they deny your claim.
- If there is suspected arson, your insurance company will not pay. Deliberate acts are exclusions in almost every insurance policy, and this includes arson or any type of suspected fraud.
- Your insurance company may conclude that you did not do everything you could to mitigate the fire. Perhaps they find that you waited a while to call the fire department, or failed to use a fire extinguisher while the fire was still manageable. In these cases, the insurer may refuse to pay for the fire damage.
- You had let your insurance policy lapse through non-payment of premiums. If you failed to pay your insurance premiums on time, your fire damage claim could be denied.
- If your home had maintenance issues (through lack of maintenance) or has prior damage that has not been repaired, your insurance company could refuse to pay or offer you far less than it will take to rebuild or restore your home.
How Can a Texas Fire Damage Claim Attorney Help with a Fire Claim?
Some insurance companies have a history of blaming homeowners for their home loss and may go out of their way to justify such blame. A Texas fire damage claim attorney will have access to resources that allow them to perform separate assessments which can be used in settlements and negotiations with your insurance company. Your attorney can work with experts to determine the actual cause of the fire, estimate your losses, discover the extent of the damage, and comprehensively estimate the value of your claim.
Hiring a Texas Fire Damage Claim Attorney Near You
If you believe your insurer is wrongfully denying, delaying, or devaluing your fire damage claim, a knowledgeable Texas fire damage claim attorney from Gulf Coast Insurance Attorneys can help. We will not let you be bullied by a big insurance company and will fight for you, your family, and your future. Contact attorney Peter Diiorio and the Gulf Coast Insurance Attorneys legal team today!