|7951 E. Maplewood Avenue, Suite 130
Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111
Serving Colorado, New Mexico, Utah & Wyoming
Carole Walker, Executive Director
303-790-0216 or toll free 800-355-9524
Wildfires Explode Across Colorado: Insurance Advice for Residents Evacuated from Their Homes and for Those Returning to Damaged or Destroyed Properties.
June 25, 2012 – Colorado's 2012 wildfire season has reached historic proportions—with thousands still in the path of dangerous wildfires and others coping with the aftermath. As Coloradans find themselves at each end of the wildfire spectrum they need to understand how their insurance works. More homes were lost to the High Park Fire over the weekend, while thousands remain evacuated, along with those impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire in Southern Colorado. Insurance adjusters are beginning to work with residents allowed to return to their homes, but still have limited access to insured properties due to the unpredictability of the High Park Fire.
"For those homeowners under new evacuation orders in Southern Colorado, they need to get in touch with their insurance companies to let them know where they are staying and ask about coverage for out-of-pocket expenses," says Carole Walker, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. "Those residents being allowed back in to the High Park Fire burn areas should contact their insurer if they have damage to set up on-site inspections. With so many structures damaged or destroyed, be aware that serious losses will take priority."
Most insurance policies also cover additional living expenses (ALE) if you are unable to live in your house or apartment because of a fire or other covered peril. Most policies will reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses, but do have set limits on the amount they will pay and may be subject to a deductible. There are different time frames and limits associated with additional living expenses, so it is important to keep receipts and check with your company to better understand how your ALE coverage works.
Advice for Filing Insurance Claims
Residents with homeowners insurance have coverage under the policy limits to repair and rebuild the structure of their home, replace their personal belongings and additional living expenses if they need to live elsewhere while their home is being repaired or rebuilt. Make sure you are working with your insurance company's adjuster (that's who your contract is with) and a reputable contractor. Cars that are damaged or destroyed are covered under the optional comprehensive portion of your auto policy. Renters insurance pays to replace personal belongings up to the policy limits.
Keep in mind that it is a process that needs to be worked through step-by-step, but there is plenty of assistance available to you through your insurance company and other financial service providers.
Insurance Claims Settlement Advice:
Tips for Selecting a Reputable Contractor
Don't become a victim of disaster fraud. After a headline capturing fire or natural disaster, professionals often go from door-to-door in damaged neighborhoods, offering clean up or repair services. Many of these business people are reputable. Others are not. The dishonest ones may pocket payment without completing the job or use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code.
- Get more than one estimate. Don't be pushed into signing a contract right away.
- Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, materials, time schedule, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations should be detailed.
- Demand references and check them out.
- Ask to see the salesperson's driver's license and write down the license number and license plate number.
- Ask for proof that the contractor is bonded, carries liability insurance, and covers his/her workers with workers compensation insurance.
- The contractor's business card should have a verifiable street address and office phone number.
- Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished. Request a lien waiver indicating the contractor has paid its subcontractors and suppliers.
- Insurance coverage may be rendered void if intentional misrepresentation by a policyholder is discovered.
- If you believe you have been approached by an unlicensed contractor or adjuster, or have been encouraged to fabricate an insurance claim, contact your insurance company or call the National Insurance Crime Bureau Hotline at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422).
For more consumer information on insurance topics, logon to www.rmiia.org.
Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association is a non-profit consumer information organization. Affiliated with the Insurance Information Institute, RMIIA has been serving consumers and the media since 1952.