Southern California Fire Insurance Claims What You Need To Know When Dealing With Your Insurance Company

Southern California Fire Insurance Claims
What You Need To Know
When Dealing With Your Insurance Company

The following suggestions review some of the things you should know if you are a victim of the recent Southern California wild fires and you lost your home or personal property.

If your home or its contents were recently damaged or destroyed in any of the Southern California fires it is very important to:

  • Take quick action
  • And present your fire insurance claim to your insurance company immediately, and effectively

Fire Claims
What To Do If You Suffer A Homeowner Loss:

1. CALL IMMEDIATELY & Make a Fire Claim

Call your insurance company right away.

  • Tell your insurance company what was damaged during the southern California wild fires.
  • Tell your insurance company how the damage occurred — such as, it was totally or partially destroyed by the recent Southern California wild fires or was partially destroyed by water when fire fighters desperately tried to save your home. Do not speculate about details of how your home or property was damaged.  Tell the insurance company what you know and are sure of. After all, it is not up to you to determine or to know all of the technical details of why you suffered the loss that lead to a fire insurance claim!
  • If your home needs immediate clean up work (e.g., to take care of fire or water damage, etc.), tell your fire insurance company. You should take immediate steps to prevent further damage and loss.
  • If you/your family cannot live in your home because of the fire or water damage, be sure you tell your fire insurance company when you first call about your property loss. You may be entitled to the costs for alternative housing.
  • Follow up! Follow up your telephone call with a letter to your fire insurance company – even if it has to be handwritten. Every time you call anyone about your fire insurance claims, whether it’s the insurance company, your insurance agent, an emergency restoration company, etc.keep accurate notes setting forth:

    (1.) the date of your call
    (2.) who you spoke with (first and last names) about your fire insurance claim
    (3) what you discussed and
    (4) what the outcome of the telephone call was

  • Whenever you communicate with your fire insurance adjuster, be polite, but firm. Do not lose your patience or get angry. Getting angry usually does not help get your fire insurance claim resolved. If your insurance company makes reasonable requests for information to resolve your fire insurance claim, and you have the information or can get it with a reasonable amount of effort, do it. You should be cooperative with your insurance company when it makes reasonable requests while they are investigating your fire insurance claim.


It is very important that you take immediate steps to prevent further damage to your property if possible.

  • This may include taking reasonable steps such as placing tarps (if appropriate) over open areas in the roof, walls, etc. as long as you can do it safely. You are not obligated to do something you cannot do or to place yourself in an unsafe situation.
  • This may include taking reasonable steps to secure your personal property from further loss if your home was damaged and open to intruders and the elements.
  • Many homeowner fire insurance policies have a requirement in them that homeowners must take preventative steps so that there is no further or additional damage after the initial loss. Be sure you comply with the fire insurance policy conditions and requirements! Ask your insurance company what you are obligated to do under the fire insurance policy.
  • If your home becomes saturated with water, or needs immediate, professional emergency attention, call a company that specializes in emergency clean ups.
  • Very important: when you call your insurance company to report your fire insurance claim, tell the insurance company that your home needs immediate, emergency clean up.

3. TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS of the Fire Damage!

After you have notified your fire insurance company – and BEFORE any emergency clean up or repairs take place, take as many photographs as you can of everything that was damaged.

  • If the exterior of your home was damaged – take photographs!
  • If the interior of your home was damaged – take photographs of every room that was damaged.
  • Take photographs of all of your belongings that were damaged.
  • Videotape is okay.  However, it is a better practice to describe what is in the videotape later and not during the time you are videotaping.

If your roof was damaged, take pictures of the roof if possible.

4. MAKE LISTS of all Items Lost In the Fire!

It is very important that you make a list of everything that was damaged in the southern California wild fires.

  • Make a list of all personal property that was damaged – and on that list, write down an estimate of what it cost you to purchase the property that was damaged, how long ago you purchased each item, and what you think it may be worth now. This is often difficult – but it is important.
  • Write down a description of the fire or water damage to your home (e.g., roof, walls, flooring, etc.).

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of what you should do when making a fire insurance claim. It is an attempt to provide some general guidelines of what you should do if you are a homeowner policy holder making a fire insurance claim due to the recent Southern California wild fires. Each homeowner situation and fire insurance policy is different and each may require different or additional action and/or impose other obligations.

If You Suspect That Your Insurance Company May Be Acting In “Bad Faith”
And Not Treating Your Fire Insurance Claims Fairly

After you make your fire insurance claim with your insurance company, if you suspect that your insurance company is acting in bad faith by causing unreasonable delay, under paying your fire insurance claim, outright denying your claim, or generally just being unreasonable in the handling of your fire insurance claim, you have a number of options. These include:

See our Resources page:

If you are frustrated because your insurance company is refusing to honor any or all of your fire insurance claims, you should seriously consider seeking the help of experienced fire insurance attorneys.

Initial consultations with fire insurance attorneys are generally free, providing free information to people in California who are struggling with bad faith from their insurance companies over valid fire insurance claims.

Gary K Kwasniewski is an “AV Rated” insurance bad faith attorney and principal lawyer with the Los Angeles, California based law firm, Viau & Kwasniewski.