The Definitive Guide To Fire Damage Claims & Repairs That Will Help Every Chicagoan
Fires and the insurance claims and conflicts are devastating and overwhelming. Not only does the fire cause damage to your property, but the property is also damaged by the smoke and water. Not to mention the newer dry chemicals used to put out fires. Therefore we’ve compiled a definitive guide to fire damage claims and repairs that will help every Chicagoan, they are affected by fire damage to their property.
Families and businesses affected by fires are in a state of shock, confusion and dismay. We at Harris Claims Services, understand how traumatic this experience of losing everything to a fire can be.
Our team has helped families and businesses for the past 30 years. From public adjusting, to boarding up your property, to restoring your property back to how it originally was, we handle it all to relieve your stress. We are a one stop shop. We have been referred to as the “Harris Advantage”.
Our experts work for you and your family, NOT the insurance companies and we have the reputation to prove it.
The Fire Claims Process includes three aspects of a claim usually. The building claim, the personal property claim and the Housing claim.
Here is a compilation of resources from the claims process to the settlement process to the repair and restoration process and everything in between. Make sure you bookmark this page on your phone or computer, so you can reference this guide later.
Fire Claims Process
Filing a claim with actual against your insurance company can be an overwhelming process, especially when you’ve just lost everything due to a fire and your life is upside down. Mental anguish stress results in lack of sleep and proper and clear thinking.
It’s important to know your role and the role of the insurance company throughout this process. It is important to understand the obligations of both sides and what will occur and how the first days of the process can and do affect the entire process.
Fire insurance, assuming proper coverage, will cover you for any damages or loss to your property caused by a fire, smoke and water. It is a LEGALLY binding contract between you and your insurance company. It details the terms and conditions to be followed and complied with by both sides, yours and the insurance companies.
Insurance companies are for-profit corporations. They will try to cut corners, try to limit what is paid in order to save the company money. So, it is essential to understand your entire fire claims process. It is not your company. Think of how difficult sometimes it is to get medical bills paid. The fire claim process is very similar. Insurance policies are contracts.
At Harris Claims Services, we are licensed public claims adjusters with the goal of protecting our clients throughout the entire fire claims process. Our adjusters will work diligently with you to document your losses, determine the value of your property damages and submit your claim to your insurance company. We apply the terms of the policy, the obligations of all sides to maximize the claim, to prevent the insurance company from taking advantage of you and to overall limit your stress.
Referring to obligations set forth in the policy of insurance, the following is a sampling of the many obligations a property owner is required to prepare to prove his loss and finalize the insurance claim. Dealing with insurance companies can either be a walk in the park or it can be a nightmare. This is the reason you must be proactive during the fire damage claims process.
You must make detailed records of:
- The date of the loss
- The type of damages
- The location and time the fire first occurred
- Injuries to individuals involved in the fire
- Condition of the property
- Description of the property
- Listing of the property destroyed, itemized line by line including dates and prices
- Estimate of the damages to the building
- Depreciation of the repairs to be made to the property.
- Permit process
- Plans and drawings
- A police report
Tips On How To Establish Communication With Insurance Adjusters
You must understand the background and qualifications of the insurance company adjuster. This adjuster is not your adjuster. Do not be confused. The insurance company adjuster is assigned to your claim by the company for the company.
He or she s responsible to the insurance company for assessing your damages. He or she can be fresh out of school with limited experience and be what we call a company man with the attitude of “its my money. See this blog Dance of Fight with the Insurance Company Adjuster for more discussion on the various types of insurance company adjusters and their attitudes.
The bottom line is the insurance company adjuster has to be negotiated with and dealt with on a professional level during the claims process. This should be done without emotion to insure success.
One can usually get a sense of how well the process will go from the beginning. This is usually true since we have handled some many claims over the years and have an understanding of the personalities and companies involved.
There are limited number of adjusters for each insurance company. We are familiar with most of them and their habits, limits and how they tend to adjust the losses. After a fire strong consideration should be given to seek the help of Harris Claims Services.
The initial meeting with the adjuster, requires you to make decisions on how to approach the situation and set the tone with the insurance company adjuster. Remember as we say at Harris Claims Services, Knowledge is Power, Power is Leverage and Leverage gets your claim settled properly.
- You have to make it apparent to insurance company adjuster that you are the one who has suffered the losses and you are the one who needs help
- Make sure to point out any errors and omissions in the claims
- You have to negotiate and be assertive in your actions
- Always remember you are responsible for documenting your losses
- You will prepare the estimate of damages with your view of what should be covered.
- If there is a disagreement you will seek review and appraisal if necessary.
- You will not accept anything less than perfect, full repairs and replacement with the safety of your family in mind
- You will not accept any type of repairs that allow a health issue to remain such as limiting the amount of work for smoke remediation and issues of structural integrity.
We know this might be overwhelming and hence the reason why, Harris Claims Services has highly trained and licensed public insurance claim adjusters ready to take the pressure off of your shoulders. We have resources to support our positions. We rely on engineers and other professional when documenting our position on the claims.
Our adjusters work on behalf of you and not the insurance company. Studies show that hiring a public claims adjuster dramatically increases the compensation received by the property owner on the settlement. We have our own case studies we love to share.
The claims process begins with our company meeting the adjuster, our offices preparing the estimate of damages, negotiating the loss and then sitting down with to review the offers. No offer is accepted until you fully understand what has occurred and what is being paid for.
Fire Damage Restoration Process
Now that you have an idea of the claims process, let’s talk about the actual damage restoration process. The assessment of your damaged property due to fire should be done as soon as possible. It is advised that you take quick action. Water and dry chemicals used to put out the fire, turns into soot and mold which deteriorates your property even more.
Not only do you have to worry about the physical damages, you almost have to worry about the intangible damages like the odor which is dangerous to breathe in. This smoke odor can be extremely difficult to get rid of. It is absorbed into the wooden structures and A/C ventilation. Many items will need to be replaced not simply painted over. The level of contamination determines this, as does the opinion of those adjusting the claim.
Steps in the fire damage restoration process:
- Boarding up of property, draining any water lines and securing the home from further damage such as bracing of walls.
- Restoration process includes removing any personal property that can be saved.
- Drying up phase, which includes making sure the water is successfully removed using high powered equipment such as water vacuums, dehumidifiers and air movers which prevent wrapping of floors and walls.
- Sanitization phase. This is where inspection and possible testing for soot and other contaminates is made.
- Prepare for repairs to begin with review of plans and permits. Thereafter begin the repairs.
- Repair the property, perform inspections of the property as required with local village or city officials.
- Completion of repairs. Obtain completion and satisfaction of repairs from the property owner plans
As noted above after the damages have been assessed, the property is fully boarded up, cleaned, sanitized and made ready for estimating the damages and then repair process. Referring to personal property, any personal items such as mattresses and clothing which cannot be restored must be replaced by the insurance settlement.
The Harris Claims Services fire repair and restoration team has the knowledge and experience to take care of all your needs. We not only take care of the building claim we also prepare, inventory and settle the personal property claim.
What You Need To Know About Public Claims Adjusters In Illinois
By law, the Illinois policy holders are protected by certain rights and regulations. This is why it makes a lot of sense to consult with a licensed public claims adjuster directly after a fire. Our owner is Jason Harris, who holds a Public Adjuster License and is also a practicing attorney. Remember Public Adjusters are bonded, tested and licensed by the State of Illinois. But not all Public Adjusters are created equal and have the knowledge needed.
Public adjusters must comply with the following rules:
- The contracts issued by the public claims adjusting company must be approved by the Illinois Dept of Insurance.
- The owner must be a licensed Public Adjuster. (ask to speak with the owner)
- There must be a bond of $20,000 maintained by the public claims adjuster or his/her company.
- The property owner has the final say on the settlement not the public adjuster.
Why You Need Help Dealing With Your Insurance Company After A Devastating Fire
During this time, when you’re recovering and ensuring your family’s safe, it is difficult to handle the process of filing claims and documenting your losses. Even going through the terms and conditions of the claim can be a tiresome and time-consuming process. Attorneys do this not ordinary citizens. Many attorneys do not even understand the complex paragraphs of an insurance policy.
Harris Claims Services has owned by a practicing attorney who has read hundreds of policies and understands the process clearly. We dot every I and cross every T, this is what we do day in and day out.
Should I Trust My Insurance Agent Or Trust A Public Adjuster To Prepare My Claim
Should you trust the insurance agent who gets paid by the insurance company or should you trust a public adjuster that has your best interest at hand and gets paid from the settlement?
The insurance company’s goal is to pay out the least amount of money as possible per claim. Insurance agents sell the policies they do not settle claims. They usually recommend persons whose bread is buttered by the insurance company.
What You Need To Know About Your Public Adjuster
Your public claims adjuster is important in getting the claims settled properly. You should be familiar with who they are and what they do.
Here are some questions that you should ask yourself if you’re the victim of a fire:
- What’s the difference between a public adjuster and the ones sent by your insurance company?
- There are three kinds of insurance adjusters
- Do I have to hire a public adjuster in Illinois?
- Is a public adjusters fee covered by my insurance?
- Are public adjuster fees negotiable?
- Do I have to sign a contract with a public adjuster?
- Are there restrictions on when a public adjuster can solicit me?
- Are there standards of conduct a public adjuster must follow?
- Do public adjusters need to be licensed in Illinois?
- Are all Public Adjuster created equally? Do they all have the same Knowledge?
- Do owners of a Public Adjusting Firm have to be licensed as a Public Adjuster?
- Who really runs the Public Adjusting Company and are they Licensed or hiding?
- How do I determine which Public Adjusting Company has the highest qualifications and best knowledge to be suited for my needs?
The Importance Of High-Quality Fire Damage Repair Service
When your home or business is burnt down by a fire, whether partially or completely, it is a horrifying experience costing time, money and resources. Your property has significant importance to your family or your business. Your fire damaged property should be repaired using only the highest-quality materials and service. Accept no short cuts.
We at Harris Claims Services pride ourselves on providing the highest standards in fire restoration and repairs. We will get your property back to the condition before the fire, if not better.
Choosing A Good Fire Repair Company And Public Adjuster
When choosing a good quality fire repair company to represent you after a fire there are a few things you should always keep in mind. These are just a few.
- Who do they work for, you or the insurance company?
- Pay attention to the construction contract – How will they get paid –
- Who covers the deductible
- Warranty work for fire repairs provided and for how long
- Ensure that your adjuster is licensed
- Have a lawyer look over your contacts and policies
- Conduct a thorough search online to ensure you have all the information you need
- Talk to the owner. Ask what they have done for the past 30 years
- Ask if and determine if they have ever filed bankruptcy or have been sued.
What’s Worse Water Or Fire Clean Up?
If there’s fire damage, then water damage. It takes water to put out fires, a lot of water. Sometimes it’s the water that may cause the most damage to your property even more than the actual fire.
- Usually the water pressure from the hose that the fire department uses will break your windows and glass objects inside
- If not properly treated the water can turn into mold
- Any electronics not damaged by the fire can become damaged by the water
- Water damage is sometimes unseen and not noticed.
Information On How To Prevent Fires
The best way to prevent a fire at your property is to be informed about how fires are start. There are 4 main contributors to fire, which all have to be present for a fire to be sustainable:
- A chain reaction
If anyone of these factors are not present it is impossible for a fire to start or continue burning. After educating yourself on how fires are started, it’s important to know the types of fires which commonly occur in your home. These are:
- Kitchen Fires
- Electrical Fires
- Heater Fires
- Fires caused by Cigarettes
List Of Do’s And Don’ts Immediately Following A Fire
- Get your family or business boarded up, begin the mitigation, get housing set up.
- Check in with your local fire department and request a Safety Instruction guide
- Call Harris Claims Services for beginning the Fire Restoration process, we are the experts for all aspects of the process
- Contact your insurance company
- Be careful of vendors sent out by the insurance company. Insurance companies usually send out those who help them mostly. Note they do NOT work for the insurance company.
- Don’t use electrical appliances
- Don’t sit on damaged furniture
- Don’t wipe down walls or any other surfaces
- Don’t consume any food or medicine that was exposed during the fire
- Don’t turn on home systems
- Don’t sign off on any contract unless you fully understand it or contact a lawyer
- Don’ t take the insurance agent or insurance company’s word for it.
- Don’t trust and take a vendor’s word for what a contract means. Make sure to read the back of any paper work the insurance company vendor such as ServePro or service master asks you to sign if they are sent there by your agent or insurance company. Make sure you understand these contracts usually call for signing over your insurance monies and have other penalties when payment is not made.
How To Clean Up Smoke Damage And Soot After A Fire
The following applies to ONLY SMALL FIRES. Cleaning up smoke and soot damage after a fire is extremely important. It can be the difference between saving certain items or having to completely replace them.
- Make sure the area is fully ventilated
- Be safe, wear proper gear and never do this alone
- Clean top to bottom
- Vacuum all the furniture
- Wash all curtains and clothes
- Pressure wash all walls and exterior surfaces
- Hire the professionals for anything you feel you can’t do
How To Get Rid Of Smoke Damage After A Fire
The process of getting rid of smoke damage can be tedious and dangerous. It’s easy to remove and replace damaged materials, but the odor created by burning materials can linger on for a long time.
Here are some techniques to remove fire damage odors, both have benefits and drawbacks:
- Using thermal fogging to deodorize smoke odor
- Ozone smoke removal treatment
Should You Use the Recommended Contractor by Your Insurance or Should You Find Your Own
Your insurance company will try to encourage you to hire their preferred contractor to repair or restore your damaged property. These contractors are used by the insurance company often and usually have the insurance company’s best interest in mind.
Your own general contractor works for you only, is obligated to you only, and importantly is completely separate from the insurance company. Insurance Agents and Insurance Companies recommend these vendors.
Do not be fooled into thinking they are part of the insurance company. Read the back of their contracts and you will usually find harsh disclosure and penalty language in the contract giving them full control of your insurance monies. If they fail to perform the insurance company does not back, you up against them.
Using Fire Damage Professionals Verses Doing It Yourself
We always recommend using professional fire services because they know what is best for you and will make sure you get the settlement you deserve. There are a lot of mistakes you might make on your own that would severely decrease your settlement or put you at risk of not getting paid.
Harris Claims Services specializes in repairing and restoring fire damaged property. We are certified and licensed professionals in the state of Illinois. We are bonded and insured as well.
We follow all the proper procedures and are known for getting you more on your claim. 35% to 100% more is not heard up. Some of our case studies even show up to 200% more than what the insurance company wants to give you.
Our professional services include:
- Identifying materials affected by the fire
- Evaluate the structure of the property
- Review the terms and conditions of the policy
- Limit and mitigate damages
- Assess what can and can’t be salvaged
- Putting the money in your pocket not the cleaning companies
- Search for sources of odor
- Sealing off areas
- And more
Hiring A Licensed Fire Damage Repair Company In Chicago
There are many types of different certifications your adjuster may have. It is imperative that you understand these licenses depending on the particular type of loss you’ve incurred.
These certifications include:
- Applied Microbial Remediation Technician (AMRT)
- Applied Structural Drying Technician (ASD)
- Fire and Smoke Restoration Technician (FSRT)
- Odor Control Technician (OCT)
- Water Damage Restoration Technician (WRT)
Looking For A Fire Damage Repair Company In Chicago? Look No Further!
Fire restoration must start immediately. Starting the process within the first few hours after the fire is extinguished is your best chance. When a fire happens, the best choice to take care of you and your family or coworkers is Harris Claims Services.
Harris Claims Services’ Fire and Flood Restoration team has over thirty years of experience helping Chicago homeowners and businesses get back on their feet.
HELP Is Here
Help is here, with Harris Claims Services. Our experience, track record, BBB awards, certifications and workforce speaks for itself. We are here to help those in need and safeguard them from the lucrative, money making machines which are insurance companies. We are obligated to you and take orders from you not the insurance company.
The Harris Advantage
Now that we have a clear understanding of the Fire Claims and Restoration processes, let’s take a look at what the “Harris Advantage” can provide you in this time of need. We have acquired decades of experience in fire damage repair service, we take the burden off our clients and take on the task of dealing with the insurance companies directly from the start to finish.
- We will prepare, present and negotiate your claim with the insurance company on your behalf.
- We guarantee a higher assessment than the assessment of the insurance adjuster for your valuables and property.
- We are the experts, public adjusters, estimators, contractors to turn to for insurance claims adjusting, insurance claims preparation, settlements and repairs.
- We are professionals who offer prompt responses to your needs. From housing, to inventory of personal property, to estimating of the building, to repairing the building to your complete satisfaction moving back home.
- We handle it all, so you can focus on what matters most, your family and business.
Learn why our clients say they love the Harris Advantage.
More Fire Damage Repair Resources For You To Checkout
- How to Clean Smoke Damage
- Handling Smoke Damage After a Fire
- Fire Damage Restoration Steps for Restoring the Property
- Fire Damage Restoration Tips
- 5 Steps of the Fire Damage Restoration Process
- Fire Restoration Procedures
- Guide to Fire and Smoke Damage
- How Much Does It Cost to Repair Fire and Smoke Damage
- Fire Damage
- Cleaning Up After a Fire