One of the more devastating ordeals that a family can go through is a house fire. Personal belongings and sentimental keepsakes may be lost forever. What wasn’t destroyed by the fire may be heavily damaged by smoke and water. If you have experienced a house fire, here are some important steps you should take.
Seek Medical Treatment for You and Your Pets
The safety of yourself, your family, and your pets is priority after a house fire. Anyone who was in the home at the time of the fire should be evaluated by a medical professional. Injuries incurred by people after being exposed to heat and smoke range from obvious issues such as burns to more subtle — yet serious — problems such as smoke inhalation and exposure to toxins. These issues are harder to detect in animals, as they are unable to express that they don’t feel well and injuries may be hidden underneath their fur.
Find a Safe Place to Stay
Even if the structure of your home is still intact, you should always find a safe place to stay after a fire. In order to fight the fire, firefighters are often forced to break windows or poke holes in the walls or roof. This can produce sharp-edged debris that can cause injury to you, your family, and your pets. Additionally, the soot and dirty water left behind by the firefighting efforts can contain bacteria and toxins that can cause negative health effects. If you are unable to stay with family or friends and cannot afford a hotel room, you can seek assistance from local religious organizations as well as your local disaster relief agencies, such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
Start an Insurance Claim
You will have immediate needs after the fire. Contact your insurance agent to find out about “loss of use” funds that may be included in your insurance policy and can help with daily living expenses. These funds are often disbursed as an advance on your claim, so you will need to retain copies of receipts and a detailed record of purchases as these will be included in your larger claim. In addition to contacting your insurance provider, you will also need to inform your landlord if the home is rented, or your lender if the home is mortgaged.
To ensure that you’re filing your claim properly and maximizing your chances at receiving the settlement you truly deserve, consider contacting an experienced fire damage insurance claims attorney who can handle the entire process for you.
Protect Your Home from Further Damage
While you’re in contact with your insurance company, your agent may be able to recommend companies who can help clean and restore your belongings and can also offer information on what you need to do to secure your home and protect it from further damage caused by people entering the premises, inclement weather, and animals who enter the dwelling. The fire department will let you know if the home is structurally sound, and you should not enter it until they have indicated that it is safe to do so. The fire department will also check your utilities, such as water, electricity, and natural gas in order to ensure that they are safe to use. If they are not safe, the department will disconnect your utilities before they leave the scene. You should never attempt to turn those utilities back on by yourself.
Obtain a Copy of the Fire Report
Your local fire department will compile information from their investigation into a report. Having this report may be required by your insurance claim and can also be helpful to your property damage lawyer working to maximize your claim. Contact the department to find out how and where you can obtain a copy.
Get Support for Your Family and Pets
As previously stated, a house fire is a devastating ordeal, and the emotional scars from such an event often last longer than the physical scars do. In the short term, you should limit the exposure to information and images of disasters, as shown regularly on the news, in television shows, and in movies. Stay connected to caring family members and supportive organizations who can provide the emotional relief you need during this time. If you have pets who survived the fire along with you, remember that they also may be wounded and scared by what happened. As much as possible, allow your pets the recuperative value of a routine — they should have normal feeding times and be kept on the same type of food as they were fed before. Take care not to take your pet with you while cleaning up your home, as this can expose them to further danger of injury and the chaos of the cleaning procedures could cause them further distress.
Enlist the Help of an Experienced Property Damage Lawyer
While insurance is the means by which most individuals recover from housefires, insurance companies often wrongfully delay or deny payments to their insured. If you are in need of assistance and are not receiving the help you need from your insurance company, the experienced property damage lawyers on the Disaster Insurance Claims Management team at Long & Long are ready to discuss your legal options with you. Contact us today to get started with a free policy review.