The loss of your property, potential injury, and the dislocation of normal life caused by wildfire are life changing. All of a sudden, new burdens are added to those of your daily life. This checklist may help.
- Family and self first. Of course, care for the health and well-being of your family and self. People, especially children, can be traumatized by near escapes from fire. Emergency resources exist that can provide prompt relief. These resources include local medical and counseling providers, the federal government (FEMA, USDA), the State, and local governments, agencies, and charities. In wildfire disaster areas, many of these entities will set up a desk to provide help to those who suffered from wildfire. Otherwise, they can be contacted on the internet.
- Make an insurance claim right away. If you have insurance which may cover the loss, like homeowner’s insurance, call your insurance company as soon as you can and make a claim. It is as easy as looking on the internet for a phone number and dialing it. Almost all insurance policies provide for what is called Alternate Living Expenses, which is money to pay for your living needs (food, housing, transportation) while you get back on your feet. Ask for sufficient payments right away; the insurance companies are obligated to give them to you. Keep your receipts for food, housing, gas and other living expenses. The insurance company may need to see them.
- Get a certified copy of your insurance policy. It is likely your insurance policy burned up with everything else. While making a claim on the phone, ask for a certified copy of your policy. With that in hand, you and/or your attorney will know exactly what the insurance company is obligated to pay you. You will not have to rely on the statements of an insurance adjuster, who may be incorrect.
- Consider representation by a competent wildfire attorney who will be devoted to your case. More often than not, insurance proceeds do not cover all of the damages suffered as a result of a wildfire. That is where a wildfire attorney comes in. If the fire is the fault of another person or entity, that person or entity is morally and legally responsible to make you and your family whole. A competent wildfire attorney who is devoted to your case can make that happen if legally possible.