Claims losses from massive wildfires top $3 billion

The recent wildfires in California have been the most destructive in state history. These fires destroyed entire communities. They also caused over $3 billion in property damage and economic losses, according to the California Department of Insurance. The department estimates that the scope of claims is expected to grow as more people become aware of their losses. A major concern right now is how to address these tremendous losses and move forward. Here are some steps you can take to help start the process of recovery from this disaster:

Know Your Coverage
You should regularly check your insurance policy to make sure that you’re adequately covered for the event you have written it for. Policies are never written with things like wildfires in mind. So, don’t assume that you’re adequately covered. Do a Self-Assessment Even if you don’t know the exact amount of the insurance you’ve got, you should get some idea of the potential losses you can face if your home is lost in a wildfire. First, take inventory of everything in your home. Take pictures of all your property to help provide a record of losses that you can show your insurance provider. Now, gather all of the documents that will prove the existence of the items. (You can always remove photos of jewelry or other sentimental items if they are valuable.

Document Your Property Losses
Preliminary estimates show that 4,500 structures were destroyed in Northern California. Depending on the intensity and extent of the damage, the number of claims may rise to as many as 21,000 in the coming months. Keep thorough photos and videos of your possessions. Save digital files of them and keep them safe. These should be accessible on computers, tablets, or smartphones if they are damaged. This will help you identify the correct documentation to help you file a claim. You can use a software program or desktop program to organize the photos and save them to your computer for safekeeping. Research the Market Insurance Options If you have homeowners insurance, you should be able to claim it on your federal insurance claim, or with the assistance of a state-sponsored program.

Be Aware of Your Insurance Limits
First, homeowners are encouraged to be aware of their insurance coverage limits. If you own a home, there are limits to what you are covered for. To help avoid litigation, it’s recommended that you review your policy periodically to ensure that these limits are still appropriate and that any changes or amendments have been made accordingly. Plan for the Claims Process After a disaster, the typical insurance process starts with communication between the customer and their insurance agent. The agent will send information on how your policy is being processed so you can be sure that your claim is processed correctly. However, it’s important to remember that this process isn’t instantaneous. It can take anywhere from several days to several months.

Don’t Delay Making a Claim
The quicker you file a claim, the faster you can get help on the ground for repairs and recovery. Contact your insurance company or agent as soon as possible. If your house or car was damaged, make sure you have a clear list of the belongings you had in the home. Take photos and video of the scene for insurance purposes. Additionally, make sure you’re not involved in any other lawsuits or criminal claims in the past. Remember: insurance policies require you to file a claim within 30 days after the loss. This means you must be ready with a clear inventory and a list of what happened at your property. There’s a Complete Flood of Questions Losing your home can be very stressful.

Help Those in Need
The Red Cross has already responded to more than 2,700 relief operations, the vast majority of which have taken place in California. The organization’s emergency response continues and they have the capacity to assist those impacted by the fires for as long as needed. Insurance Benefits If you have lost uninsured property, you are entitled to certain insurance benefits. If you were underinsured, the damage may not cover the full cost of replacing your home, for example. You may have other protections, including coverage through the Small Business Administration. Comprehensive Disaster Coverage If you have homeowners insurance with USAA, their primary focus is to help get you back on your feet and rebuilding your home.