Yellow tape that says "Fire line do not cross"

Tips to Consider When Filing a Fire Claim

It is something that can happen in an instant — a fire spreading quickly through your business. As a business owner, you take every precaution to avoid a situation like this, but accidents can still occur.

Common Types of Fire Damage

If a fire goes through your business, one of the first steps you can take is self-evaluating the damage. The two most common types of damages from a fire are smoke/soot damage and water damage.

Smoke/Soot Damage

This type of damage isn’t always seen at first glance. Common signs of smoke/soot damage can include:

  • Damages to flooring;
  • Paint discoloration;
  • Corrosion or rust on metal objects;
  • Stained furniture; and,
  • A strong odor.

Smoke/soot damage can have long-term effects so it is essential to take care of this type of damage immediately. If this type of damage isn’t fixed in an appropriate amount of time, it could lead to further issues including physical and property complications.

When considering potential physical complications — if soot enters the bloodstream it could lead to severe consequences such as respiratory issues, heart issues, and in severe cases, death. Other physical complications could include rashes to the skin and eyes.

Focusing on the potential property complications — the longer soot stays on a surface the harder it is to remove the substance. This means it would be more costly for you compared to getting the damage removed shortly after the fire occurred. Additionally, if you were to sell your business the property’s value could decrease significantly if there was lingering smoke/soot damage.

Water Damage

Water damage should be expected if a fire occurs as emergency crews would use water to put out a fire. Unfortunately, water damage must be addressed before smoke/soot damage can be cleaned up. That’s because mold could quickly grow if the water damage is not treated. Mold can lead to physical side effects similar to smoke/soot damage including respiratory issues, nausea, and headaches.

Filing a Claim

While you want to get your business back up and running quickly after a fire, it’s also important to consider filing an insurance claim to help pay for some of the cleanup. Keep the following factors in mind as you begin that process:

Prior Preparations

One pro-tip all business owners can do is have “before” pictures saved in multiple locations (preferably at least one is outside of the business and you have both digital and hard copies of the pictures). If a fire were to occur, you will have this evidence to give the insurance company an idea of what your business looked like beforehand.

Making Repairs

Is it better to make some repairs and then file a claim? In this scenario, you would receive less from the insurance company. On the other hand, you may not see an increase in your premium if you make some of your own repairs. There is no one right answer to this question, so it’s best to weigh the pros and cons of making your own repairs.

Replacing Property

Many times fire damage does more than structural damage — equipment to keep your business running such as computers, merchandise, and other items could be destroyed. This is critical to note in your insurance claim because it could mean you get additional financial support to replace that property.

After the Claim is Filed

It can be difficult, or even impossible, to continue running your business while you’re waiting on the insurance company to make their decision. If and when your claim is approved, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that your business can get back on track sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, insurance companies far too often will deny part of your claim or the entire claim. This can be a devastating blow professionally and financially. But not all hope has to be lost.

The experienced insurance and business litigation attorneys at Hawash Cicack & Gaston, LLP have seen insurance claims denied for a wide variety of reasons. In many cases, if your claim was denied, you have the right to further push the issue with the insurance company. While you could try and take on the insurance company by yourself, the team at Hawash Cicack & Gaston, LLP has the knowledge needed to take on these large organizations.

If you received an insurance denial letter, make your next course of action contacting Hawash Cicack & Gaston, LLP.