Accidents, natural disasters, and unlawful actions, such as flood, fire, wind, vandalism, or water damage, can cause considerable losses. A maximized insurance payout can be of immense help when it comes to bouncing back after such a loss.
However, the unfortunate truth is that insurance companies treat your claim as a business decision and therefore work to minimize their monetary exposure, keeping the payout as low as possible. By taking the time to acquaint yourself with the property insurance claims process in California, you will be able to maximize the value you get out of your insurance policy.
In this article, we will give you a few pointers that apply regardless of the type of property damage claim you are dealing with. Keep reading to learn more.
What should your first steps be?
Do not wait for a disaster to strike before you familiarize yourself with your insurance policy and rights under California law. If you do not have a complete or current version of your policy, ask in writing for a certified copy of your policy. A good starting point is to check your policy’s “Declarations Page.”
Your policy is divided into coverage categories. These include:
- Dwelling (“Coverage A”)
- Other Structures (“Coverage B”)
- Personal Property (“Coverage C”)
- Loss of Use/Additional Living Expenses (“Coverage D”)
- Other categories such as medical payments and personal liability.
Read your entire policy. It is not enough to just read the Declarations Page. Your policy will include definitions, descriptions, conditions and exclusions that are pertinent to the benefits that are available to you. Are you entitled to replacement cost or actual cash value? If you are entitled to replacement cost, what conditions are required for you to receive the full replacement cost value of either your personal property, dwelling, or other structures? Do not rely on the insurance company’s adjuster for policy interpretation. Many times your adjuster may be from out of state and unfamiliar with the specifics of your policy or your rights under the insurance laws of California. Insurance company adjusters and independent adjusters work for the insurance company and ultimately protect the insurer’s interests during the property insurance claims process in California.
What are Additional Living Expenses and what do they cover?
Additional Living Expenses (ALE), also called Loss of Use, covers the extra expenses you incur as a result of your property damage claim. These expenses must be additional to your normal expenses. This means that if your home is uninhabitable, either because it has been destroyed or has sustained major damage, you must continue to pay your mortgage. However, the expenses associated with a hotel stay or rent for a rental home or apartment will be covered by your insurance company as ALE. Other common expenses that are typically covered as ALE include the extra mileage to and from your employer or child’s school, meals above your normal or average expenditures prior to the loss, and moving costs.
Let’s say you had to evacuate your home due to damage caused by one of the 2018 California wildfires. With nowhere else to go, you are forced to pay for temporary accommodations. If you have pets, you may need to pay for their boarding too. Ideally, ALE would cover all these unforeseen expenses.
Ask your insurer for a written list of all common items that are reimbursable under your ALE coverage. Even if your insurer seems unwilling to pay for some types of expenses, in our experience it pays to ask. We represented a husband and wife who felt more comfortable staying with family members following damage from the Camp Fire. The client’s insurer agreed to pay for the increase in utility bills that the client’s family members incurred as a result of the displaced family moving in.
Since ALE payments are normally paid on a reimbursement basis, it is vital that you save all your receipts and timely submit them to your insurer for reimbursement.
What if you need or want to live in a trailer during reconstruction?
Some people prefer to stay in the area while rebuilding or repairing their property. In these cases, it is possible to ask your insurer to “cash out” your ALE coverage so that you can buy a motorhome or a trailer instead of using the coverage money to pay rent.
This approach not only gives you flexibility, it also removes the need to collect and submit paperwork and receipts to your insurance company. Finally, it nets you a vehicle or a trailer that you can reuse or sell at a later date.
Getting professional help with your property insurance claims process in California
The best way to make sure you get the maximum payout your insurance policy entitles you to is to hire a first-rate public adjuster who can help guide you through the intricacies of the property damage claim process.
Integral Adjusters’ Michael McEvoy is one of California’s most experienced and effective property damage public adjusters, as well as being at your service if you have any questions about insurance claims in case of fire damage or insurance claims for water damage. Among other benefits, Michael McEvoy offers one-on-one service and makes it his mission to be available at all times to his clients.
Contact Integral Adjusters today and schedule your free consultation.