Washington Offers Assistance to Homeowners Hit by Wildfires

July 18, 2008

As wildfires erupt across Eastern Washington, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler urges homeowners needing help with their insurance claims to call the Insurance Consumer Hotline (800-562-6900).

“Most insurance companies are very responsive after a disaster,” said Kreidler. “But sometimes people need help. My office is here to answer consumers’ questions about their coverage and to investigate complaints they may have about their insurance company, agent or an adjustor.”

Kreidler added that even if hasn’t been a victim of the recent wildfires, it’s a valuable reminder for customers to review their insurance policies.

“Our communities are spreading beyond the suburban boundaries, increasing the risk of approaching wildfires,” said Kreidler. “Regardless of where you live, it’s always a good idea to check your insurance coverage at least once a year. Many people don’t take the time to really understand their policies until they need to make a claim, and by then it’s too late. They may think they’re covered and be hit with sticker shock when they realize how much they have to pay out-of-pocket.”

Kreidler recommends that agents talk to homeowners about:

* Replacement-cost coverage, which requires the insurer to pay the cost to replace everything that is lost.

* Having enough coverage to cover the cost of repairs or to replace the home. If the policy covers only 80 or 90 percent of the total cost, the homeowner could get stuck with a hefty bill.

* Understanding the coverage for additional living expenses. If the home is unlivable, some insurance will cover hotel costs, while some may only cover a portion of the cost.

* Buying additional coverage if they want to protect specific valuables, such as computer equipment, jewelry or fine art.

* Taking an inventory of their belongings, along with photos and receipts, and keep that inventory somewhere safe, such as in a safe-deposit box or with a relative who lives in another area.

* Storing all toxic chemicals — such as pesticides and paint — safely. Notify firefighters by posting signs indicating where the chemicals are stored on your property.

Anyone needing help understanding their coverage or who has an insurance complaint should call the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-562-6900.

Source: DOI

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