Insurance Tips for Coloradans Impacted by Wildfires

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The Colorado Division of Insurance and the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association are sharing insurance advice on evacuations, filing claims, and financial preparedness due to the evacuations of thousands of Coloradans over the weekend from the Cameron Peak, CalWood, Lefthand Canyon, and East Troublesome wildfires.

Three key reminders for those who have either been evacuated, are under a pre-evacuation alert, or who have suffered a loss due to a wildfire are to know their policy and have a copy of it, keep receipts of restaurants, hotels, and other living expenses caused by displacement from evacuations and to contact the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) with concerns and questions when filing claims.

“For residents impacted by Colorado wildfires, it is critical to understand the role their insurance plays in evacuations and claims settlements,” said Carole Walker, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association. “Always put safety first, but COVID-19 health precautions can add another layer of concern about where to go, what to do and how claims are handled before, during, and after a wildfire,” Carole said.

Insurance Evacuation & Claims Advice are as follows:

  • If you are ordered to evacuate, you need to leave your residence immediately.
  • Contact your insurance agent or company immediately to let them know where you are staying and help you with coverage or claims questions.
  • Most insurance policies cover additional living expenses if you are under a mandatory evacuation and cannot live in your house or apartment because of a fire or other covered peril. Most policies will reimburse you for the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses. Still, policies have set limits on the amount they will pay and may be subject to a deductible. Additional living expenses may also provide you with some out-of-pocket money while forced out of your home. Check with your insurance professional about what coverage you have and keep receipts for expenses that may be reimbursed if you file a claim.
  • Have an evacuation plan that includes identifying available lodging options such as family or friends, local hotels, shelter locations, insurance assistance with lodging, and pet shelters.
  • Take photos or videos of personal possessions, particularly antiques, artwork, or custom / expensive items. Make a complete home inventory that lists or has pictures or videos of your home or apartment contents. You can add digital photos and scan in receipts, along with your room-by-room online inventory. Only do these things if you have plenty of time.

Tips for Returning Home After the Fire are as follows:

  • Start the claim process by calling your insurance company or agent. Contact the DOI if you need the contact information for your company or agent.
  • If the damage to your home is extensive, start taking photos of the property and documenting what was lost. Protect from further damage by placing tarps on roofs or boarding up windows, but don’t begin repairs without contacting your insurance company.
  • Claims Settlement in the Time of COVID-19 – Insurance companies have implemented safety procedures that address COVID-19 concerns to provide virtual property and inspection opportunities whenever possible in the claim settlement process. If an on-site inspection is required, adjusters are trained in proper safety precautions, including wearing masks, social distancing, and following CDC guidelines.
  • You are not required to hire a public adjuster, but if you do, make sure they are licensed and reputable – check references. If possible, hire a Colorado-based adjuster. The DOI licenses public adjusters, and consumers can call the Division to verify a license. Public adjusters work on behalf of a consumer and often charge a percentage of the claim amount. The fee is agreed upon in the contract between the public adjuster and the consumer. This cost is not included in the claim amount paid by the insurer.
  • Find information about flood insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at floodsmart.gov, a site from FEMA, or call the NFIP at 800-427-4661.

For more information regarding questions about insurance – policies, how things work, how to file a claim, or how to get ahold of a company or agent, call the Division of Insurance Consumer Services team at 303-894-7490 and 800-930-3745 or for more information on the Colorado Division of Insurance, visit: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dora/ask-question-make-complaint-division-insurance