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Thread: Getting Adjusted After the Fire

  1. #1
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    Getting Adjusted After the Fire

    Some of you may remember about 10 months ago we had a big fire in our neck of the woods...the Station Fire. Ever since then, virtually all the homeowners in the area have been getting junk mail ads for attorneys or companies offering to help you get any insurance settlements that are owed to you as the result of smoke, soot, and ash damage. I know several people who've gotten sizable settlements through these companies, and they've all told me that we should do the same. For some reason, it seemed fishy.

    A few weeks ago I finally contacted our insurance agent, and asked if we had grounds to file a claim. Yes, we did, and since our neighborhood was declared a disaster area, they still had catastrophe teams working to file claims for their clients. I got a call shortly after from a claims adjuster, and he made an appointment to come inspect the house and take some measurements, since the settlements for cleaning were partially based on square footage of the house. He told me then that the inspection would be brief, since he's seen enough of the houses in my neighborhood and he knew exactly what he'd find and where it would be.

    Today he came by and did his inspection and measuring. He was right...the inspection was pretty quick, and he had a laser measuring 'tape' to get a quick square footage of every room. He'll take those numbers and run them through a CAD program that'll give him (and us) a blueprint of the house and a basis for the settlement. And no surprise, he found signs of ash and soot everywhere he looked, so it's pretty much a slam-dunk, no questions asked settlement. What surprised me is the extent of the repairs they are planning to pay for. There's cleaning everything: floors, walls, inside cabinets and closets, all furniture, clothing, ceilings, roofs, rain gutters, paved surfaces, and all the HVAC ductwork. They will also be removing and replacing all the blown-in insulation in the attic, which is 12" to 16" deep. Just guessing, he said we were probably looking at between $15,000 and $20,000 worth of work. The settlement will be paid in two checks...one that has our mortgage company as a co-signer (for exterior and infrastructure cleaning), and another that's strictly to us for interior cleaning, so we can decide how much of that work we want to pay for and how much we want to do ourselves. (For example, I don't think I'll pay someone to sanitize my shop.)

    The adjuster also filled us in on how the "claim settlement" companies/lawyers work. This is probably old news to those of you who have been through large-scale catastrophes (floods, tornadoes, etc.), but it was still a new experience to me, since I'd never had a homeowner's insurance claim before, particularly after a disaster event. The companies contact the insurance companies to file the claim, then follow the inspectors around to make sure they inspect everything they think should be inspected. The settlement ends up being the same, since they're all going by "blue book" rates, and a reputable inspector is going to come up with the same numbers whether he's followed around by a lawyer or not. The only difference is that the settlement company/lawyer gets to keep 35% off the top of any settlements paid. According to our adjuster, there's one prolific outfit in the area that's making in the neighborhood of $200,000 per month scamming people out of their 35%. I'm glad I didn't follow the neighbors' advice and call any of the companies they suggested. My advice if you're ever in a similar boat is just call your insurance company and let them do what you pay them for.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  2. #2
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    Vaughn,
    after my hiatus, I was afraid I'd missed a bigger event than the area wildfires last summer/fall. WHew! Glad to hear that there is some money on its way and that your home can be improved.
    -Ned

  3. #3
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    sorry you had to deal with the fire but you are gonna get some restitution for it now... and just doesnt seem right for the scamming folks does it.. good luck on your returns vaughn.. on more suggestion to you or others is watch what you say and check deadlines,, those are good places for crawl outs in the payment schedule.
    when i was broke into i got paid for a stihel chain saw with a 12" bar not a 20" because i said it was a model such and such and they wouldnt change it to the proper price for the larger bar
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  4. #4
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    So what would be the problem with your attic insulation?
    There's usually more than one way to do it...
    www.wordsnwood.com ........ facebook.com/wordsnwood

  5. #5
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    Will your house insurance rates go up?
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  6. #6
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    Vaughn as the ole wise man says, "Mother Vaughn never raised such a fool" It's very wise to sit back and watch. Smart Man
    I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious.
    ::: Andrew Wyeth :::
    colonialrestorationstudio.com

  7. #7
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    Nice blue bird score there Vaughn. You might as well get your share cause they going to hit you all for higher rates in the future to make up for their payouts.

    Interesting the things they pay for. Guess they taking the path of least resistance.

    Amazing they aint claiming the fire was not an act of God and getting out of the kind of damage referred to. I could have understood if it was on your property but out in the open country?

    Bet there is going to be a few neighbors that are sorry. But i wonder had someone not gone to a lawyer in the first place would he insurance guys be so willing to just cough up.

    I have pretty mixed feelings towards the lawyer types. Could fall either side of the fence.

    Happy for you though.
    cheers

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by larry merlau View Post
    ...on more suggestion to you or others is watch what you say and check deadlines,, those are good places for crawl outs in the payment schedule.
    when i was broke into i got paid for a stihel chain saw with a 12" bar not a 20" because i said it was a model such and such and they wouldnt change it to the proper price for the larger bar
    Fortunately, we're not looking at replacing missing stuff like you were. It's easier to prove what is already in place. But your advice is good...I'll be especially watching the quotes we get from the various contractors to see that we're getting what we're paying for. The insurance company has companies they will recommend, although we're free to shop for our own, too. For most of it, I think we'll probably go with one of the companies like ServiceMaster that specializes in major cleanup jobs like this.

    I know first-hand about watching what you say to the insurance companies, though. When I had a couple guitars stolen years ago, my auto insurance company was ready to send me the settlement check, when I mentioned that I needed to money to replace the guitars, since I was making my living with them. They called me back the next day and told me the claim was denied because I didn't have commercial coverage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Art Mulder View Post
    So what would be the problem with your attic insulation?
    Other than the fact that it has ash and soot in it (from the roof and gable vents), I don't really understand the problem either. I don't see how that contamination affects the interior living spaces. But if they want to replace it, I guess I won't argue. I may try to take advantage of things while the insulation is removed to reinforce a couple bedroom ceiling light j-boxes so we can install ceiling fans in those rooms. I tried to do that in our bedroom last year, but gave up fighting the insulation and cramped quarters. I never did actually make it all the way to the j-box. With the insulation removed, maybe I can. Probably also take advantage of the situation and install a couple turbine vents. Our attic is hotter than it should be, and that's not good for the life of the roofing materials.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Ablett View Post
    Will your house insurance rates go up?
    Since it was declared a disaster area, it's my understanding that they cannot raise the rates. I guess time will tell.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Keeble View Post
    ...Amazing they aint claiming the fire was not an act of God and getting out of the kind of damage referred to. I could have understood if it was on your property but out in the open country?

    Bet there is going to be a few neighbors that are sorry. But i wonder had someone not gone to a lawyer in the first place would he insurance guys be so willing to just cough up.

    I have pretty mixed feelings towards the lawyer types. Could fall either side of the fence....
    I agree with your mixed feelings about the lawyers. Heck, LOML works for lawyers that represent State Farm. I hear some amazing stories about people trying to scam insurance companies, but I know it works both ways. I'm sure there are some of the smaller insurance companies trying to weasel out of paying full settlements, but the majors like State Farm and Farmer's generally seem to shoot pretty straight in the big claim events like this one.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  9. #9
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    hey vaughn rather than yu climbing up there to fix the light areas have the contractor do it and it should be able to just make it the same price if its not to major of job.. they are all ready there and up in the attic..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  10. #10
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    Excellent point Larry especially think of saving the back from that awkward bending. Could risk an injury.
    cheers

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