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Last Updated Oct. 23, 2007

NEW YORK, October 23, 2007— Victims in Southern California whose property was damaged by urban wildfires should contact their insurance company immediately. Damage caused by fire and smoke is covered under standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies and under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. There is also coverage for water or other damage incurred by fire fighters in the course of extinguishing the fire, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)

If your property was damaged in the wildfires, the I.I.I. offers the following advice to speed the insurance claims settlement process:

  • Be prepared to give your agent or insurance company representative a description of the damage to your property. Your agent will report the loss immediately to your insurance company or to a qualified adjuster who will contact you as soon as possible in order to arrange an inspection of the damage. Make sure you give your agent a telephone number where you can be reached.
  • If it is safe to access the area, take photographs of the damaged property. Visual documentation will help with the claims process and will assist the adjuster in the investigation.
  • Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. Make two copies—one for yourself and one for the adjuster. Your list should be as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost.
  • Collect canceled checks, invoices, receipts or other papers that will assist the adjuster in obtaining the value of the destroyed property.
  • Make whatever temporary repairs you can. Cover broken windows and damaged roofs and walls to prevent further destruction. Save the receipts for any supplies and materials you purchase as your insurance company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses in making temporary repairs.
  • Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home or business from a licensed contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices.
  • If your home is severely damaged and you need to find other accommodations while repairs are being made, keep a record of all expenses, such as hotel and restaurant receipts, as these may be covered by the Additional Living Expenses section of your homeowners policy.
  • If your business has been damaged, and you have business income (business interruption) insurance, it covers the profits your business would have earned, based on own financial records, had the disaster not occurred. The policy covers additional operating expenses incurred as a result of the disaster, such as the extra expense of operating out of a temporary location.

Serious Losses Will Be Given Priority

If your home has been destroyed or seriously damaged, your agent will do everything possible to ensure your claim is given priority.

The Insurance Information Institute has a free brochure, Settling Insurance Claims after a Disaster. Consumers can get a copy on the I.I.I. Web site, at , or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038.

The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.