California Wildfire Insurance Claims: How to File for Wildfire Losses

Since 2015, California wildfire insurance claims have skyrocketed. Our state has been battling some of the most destructive wildfires in California history. Countless of our friends and families have lost homes, businesses, family legacy properties, retirement homes, and cherished lands – incinerated in a matter of days. Entire communities have been devasted by sudden loss. We have fought together, grieved together, sifted through ashes together, and rebuilt our towns together.

And altogether, we’ve filed almost $12 billion in California wildfire insurance claims (LA Times, 1/31/18).

We purchase insurance plans to protect us from calamities such as wildfire. But insurance companies are built to make a profit, and when they encounter the massive influx of insurance claims, they too often try to find ways to limit the amount of money they pay out to their policy holders. Not only is this unethical, but the ways they go about this are often also illegal.

Insurance companies know they have the upper hand in dealing with policy holders. They write confusing policy language, put up extensive red tape, force policy holders to jump through hoops to get paid, they delay payments, and sometimes they flat out refuse to pay. All of these tactics are illegal in California, and may require an experienced insurance bad faith attorney to enforce that they honor their policies.

Filing California Wildfire Insurance Claims

California Wildfire Insurance Claims Carr Fire Northbay Fire

From a policy standpoint, filing a wildfire insurance claim is similar to filing a claim for any other major loss. However, the sheer volume of California wildfire insurance claims may cause delays and make the process more challenging. Below are some tips for filing a wildfire insurance claim.

  1. Put a call into your insurance company as soon as you are out of danger. Your insurance adjustor will likely have a long list of policyholders whose properties he or she will be assigned to inspect. You want to be as high up on that list as possible so your property can be inspected as quickly as possible.
  2. Get started on your inventory list as soon as you can. This is one of the most exhausting efforts for homeowners, but it’s important to be as thorough as possible. The sooner you can start jogging your memory of what you lost, the more accurate your list will be, and this is the only way your insurance company will know what needs to be compensated.
  3. Keep all of your receipts related to your evacuation, displacement, property repairs and items you had to replace due to the fire.
  4. Keep a record of all correspondence with your insurance company. In the event that you need an insurance attorney’s help to file your claim, evidence of their misconduct will be a valuable part of your case.
  5. Get any offers from your insurance company in writing. If your insurance company makes you an offer verbally, be sure to have them follow up with their offer by email, fax or mail.
  6. Locate contractors who specialize in fire restoration and obtain quotes from several of them. You will want to compare these quotes to whatever your insurance company tells you they will pay to replace or rebuild your property.
  7. Don’t close out your claim until you are ready to close it. You may need more time to discover all the damages your policy covers. This may require the help of professionals such as contractors, fire restoration professionals and arborists to assess your damage, and possibly an insurance lawyer to review your policy and ensure you are getting paid appropriately for your losses.

How an Insurance Bad Faith Lawyer can Help Recover Wildfire Losses

The last thing anyone who has lost their home or business to a wildfire wants to battle next is an uncooperative insurance company. And perhaps the second to last thing anyone wants to do is hire a lawyer to sue their insurance company.

But an experienced insurance bad faith lawyer can relieve the burden of having to fight your insurance company alone. You shouldn’t have to navigate through their red tape without guidance, and you shouldn’t be made to feel you’re fighting a losing battle. An insurance bad faith attorney is well trained to fight on your behalf, and can often reach a successful resolution much quicker than you might anticipate. Sometimes just knowing you have a reputable insurance bad faith attorney in your corner is enough to make your insurance company do right by your policy.

Not only can an attorney help get California wildfire insurance claims paid, but an attorney may also help you recover damages you didn’t know were covered under your policy. In some cases, an insurance company may be forced to pay for punitive damages that far exceed the amount covered by its policy.

In cases where another entity, such as a public utilities company, has been found liable for the blaze, an experienced wildfire attorney may also help recover losses for which you are underinsured.

Do I Need an Insurance Lawyer to File California Wildfire Insurance Claims?

If you have filed an insurance claim in California due to a wildfire, you need a lawyer with a proven track record for fighting insurance companies and for making them pay claims. The unprecedented amount of wildfire related insurance claims currently being filed in our state warrants a seasoned insurance attorney to help you recover your wildfire losses.

Over the past twenty five years, Eric Ratinoff has successfully recovered millions of dollars for his clients in insurance bad faith lawsuits. Since 2015, he has personally represented hundreds of families who lost everything due to wildfires in California, helping them recover the money they need to rebuild their homes, businesses, communities, and lives.

You already battled the wildfire. Don’t battle your insurance company. If you have lost a home or business to a California wildfire, call us today or fill out the form on this page to request a free and confidential insurance policy review.