California wildfires cause millions of dollars in property damage to surrounding homes and properties. Even properties that have not been burned may suffer serious damages and require remediation and repair. One often unseen and unknown harm caused by wildfire is extensive smoke and ash damage to residential and commercial properties. Simply removing the visible signs of surface smoke, ash and soot is often insufficient. If the smoke and ash damage to your property is not professionally restored, you may be subjecting yourself, your loved ones and your home to devastating long-term hazards.
TYPES OF DAMAGES FROM SMOKE AND ASH
Wildfires can cause a devastating amount of smoke and ash in the nearby vicinity of the fire. Types of damages to watch out for from smoke and ash include:
- Roof: May be damaged by burning embers.
- Carpeting, rugs, drapes, clothing, and other fabrics: May be discolored by smoke.
- Furniture: May be damaged depending on material.
- Drains, attics, and crawl spaces: May be damaged by a buildup of ash and soot.
- Foundation or retaining walls: May be damaged by a transfer of heat.
- Stucco, Siding and Concrete: May crack due to dehydration and baking or melt after exposure to heat.
- Windows: May melt, warp, blister or discolor.
- HVAC system: May be damaged by buildup of ash in ducts.
- Swimming pools: May sustain damage from buildups in the filters and pumps.
- Plants and Soil: May die or contaminate from heat and smoke.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR HOME SUFFERS DAMAGE FROM SMOKE AND ASH
Document Your Damages
- Take photos of all damaged items and areas affected by smoke or ash.
- Make a list of items that were damaged.
- Keep bills and receipts for all temporary repairs.
- Keep track of your living expenses.
- Do not throw out damaged items.
- Do not clean damaged areas before documenting the damage.
Mitigate Your Damages
The law and your insurance policy require that you take reasonable care of your property and secure your property from further damage to the extent possible. Insurance companies call this "mitigation." In the event of a nearby wildfire, take the following precautions:
- Keep all windows and doors closed, but do not lock them.
- Remove combustible materials from the area surrounding your home.
- Cover or move outdoor furniture to protect against further smoke or ash.
- Turn off air conditioning/air circulation systems.
- Do not throw out damaged items.
- Make temporary repairs to the extent possible, such as covering holes or broken windows.
Contact an Experienced Smoke and Ash Insurance Attorney
WHY DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY FOR MY SMOKE AND ASH INSURANCE CLAIM?
Damage from smoke and ash is covered in most homeowners policies. However, having an experienced attorney is invaluable to your fire damage claim. Our extensive experience with insurance companies has revealed insight into certain tactics used by insurance companies in order to avoid full and fair compensation. Some common tactics used for denying or lowballing fire insurance claims include:
- An undervaluing of the extent of damage to the property.
- A failure to thoroughly investigate within an appropriate time frame.
- An attempt of low payout to the policyholder.
- A violation in terms of the insurance policy.
- Intimidation tactics such as accusations of fraud or misconduct by the homeowner.
Our firm can act immediately on your behalf and get the claim process started in the right way from the beginning. If you do not act immediately and fail to provide all the necessary documentation to the insurance company, you could fall to the bottom of the list of policyholders who have fire insurance claims, and it could be a long time before an adjuster reaches you to begin assessing your fire damage.
Additionally, it is rarely sufficient to have your fire damage inspected/evaluated only by the insurance company's adjuster. It is almost always necessary to have your own expert adjuster in addition to the insurance company's adjuster. Our firm utilizes public adjusters who will represent your interests and work with the insurance company to make sure your damages are fairly evaluated.
Too often, insurance companies fail to acknowledge the full extent of smoke and ash damage your home has sustained. Therefore, it is vital to seek legal representation in order to protect your rights after suffering a loss from smoke or ash.
If your home has been damaged by smoke or ash, contact the Law Offices of Mher Asatryan as soon as possible. Our office offers free consultations and will not charge you anything unless and until we can recover compensation for your insurance claim. The sooner our office starts working on your case, the sooner your mind will be at ease in knowing that your home will be fully restored and repaired to its previous condition.