Nev. Commissioner Offers Advice on Filing Claims in Aftermath of Wildfires

July 15, 2004

Fire safety is important all year-round, but never more so during
the hot summer months when the careless toss of a cigarette can ignite a devastating wildfire.

Nevada Commissioner of Insurance Alice Molasky-Arman is offering tips for consumers who suffered losses from the nation’s wildfires and need to file expedient insurance claims. “Consumer protection is always our main concern,” said Molasky-Arman. “The Division of Insurance is here to answer your questions and help you get back to living your life.”

Making a claim
According to Molasky-Arman, in the event one’s home is damaged or destroyed as a result of a wildfire, they should make contact with their insurance company as soon as possible. It is important that the insurer knows where they can be reached.

If one has not already taken inventory of personal property that is damaged or lost by the fire or smoke, they should do so as soon as possible. Make the inventory as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or age, cost at purchase and estimated replacement cost. Gather any available documentation (receipts, photos, video, user manuals, warranties, etc.) related to the property.

Take photos of the damaged area and property. One needs to be prepared to provide their insurer with a description of the damaged property and losses.

Mitigate losses
As a policyholder, individuals have the responsibility under the terms of their policy to take reasonable and necessary steps to try to prevent further loss.

For example:

• Notify one’s insurance agent. Check to see whether additional living expenses are covered.
• Make whatever needed temporary repairs one can. Document all repairs with “before” and after” photographs, if possible.
• Keep receipts and detailed, accurate records of any expenses one incurs in repairing their property so that the insurer can reimburse the person for reasonable repair expenses.
• Keep receipts for “living expenses” so one can be reimbursed under their “additional living expense” coverage if you have it.
• Maintain copies of one’s household inventory, canceled checks, invoices and other documentation. This will help the adjuster to assess the value of the destroyed property.
• Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs from a reliable contractor.
• Pay the premiums. Even if mail has been disrupted and one may not presently have access to their insurance-related documentation, if one believes their premium payment may be coming due or is due, they should take steps to pay their premiums so coverage does not lapse. If one is concerned that their policy might lapse due to nonpayment of the premium because of the fire, call the insurer or
the agent to make arrangements.
• Let the agent or insurance company know one’s temporary forwarding address and phone number.

Be alert for deceptive sale practices

Though the great majority of service providers are honest, there are unscrupulous people who prey on the victims of disasters with various schemes including home-repair fraud and solicitation-of-insurance fraud.

To avoid being a victim of fraud, follow these steps:

• Shop around before selecting a contractor or repairman. Get more than one written estimate.
• Don’t be pressured into signing a contract, and never sign a contract with blanks. A contract should include the contractor’s name, business name, phone number and address.
• Get everything in writing. A contract should include a thorough description of the work to be performed, the grade and quality of materials to be used, the agreedupon starting and completion dates, the total cost, a payment schedule, warranty terms and the contractor’s signature.
• Never let work begin on the home or business until the contract is finalized.
• Insist on getting references, and check them.
• Never pay a contractor or repairman in full or sign a certificate of completion until after the work is completed.
• Be wary of contractors or repairmen who solicit door-to-door. Doing business with licensed and insured contractors gives one protection and options if they do not receive the quality of work for which they contracted.

“Unfortunately, it is in our most dire times that unsavory characters may take advantage of us,” said Molasky-Arman. “By being aware and conscientious of our choices and keeping accurate records, you can protect yourself. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of deceptive
business practices, contact your insurance department as soon as possible.”

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