Wildfire Victims and Their Contents Claims!


Picture a homeowner couple in Southern California. They had a home in a wooded area, and wildfires began. The local Fire Department came to their home and required that they evacuate because the winds shifted and the fire was coming straight for their home. They gather up their most valuable possessions and leave their home. Three days later, they return to find a smouldering pile of ashes…a total loss.

This article is about the Contents portion of the claim. The insurance company will not just write you a check for the policy limits in your Homeowners policy. You’re going to have to prove your loss.

The insurance company adjuster MIGHT give you an inventory form to fill out. They might not. But, they ARE going to expect you to submit a complete, accurate inventory list.

I hope that you videotaped all of the interior of your home PRIOR to the loss, and have secured that videotape in a safe deposit box off-site. Then, you could view the tape and write out the inventory.

But let’s just assume that all you have is ashes. What to do next?

Get a copy of a JC Penney catalog. Better, get two…one Fall/Winter, one Spring/Summer. Get your hands on as many other catalogs as you can find. As you look at the pages of the catalogs, you’ll remember the things that you had in your home. You will find hundreds or thousands of dollars in personal property that you likely would not have remembered owning. Not only will you remember dozens and dozens of items, but you’ll have a retail price from a reputable retailer right at your fingertips.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m telling you to do here. I’m NOT telling you to write down items on your inventory list that you did not own. That’s fraud, and you can go to jail for fraud. I’m simply showing you a way to remind yourself of things long ago purchased, and possibly stored and forgotten. For example, how many parents bought a vaporizer to run in their childrens’ rooms at night when the children were sick? That vaporizer might not have been used in years, but you owned it, and you have a right to collect for it under the terms of your policy.

Write down EVERYTHING. Your inventory list will likely take dozens of pages. Remember to show (1) replacement cost, (2) age of the item, (3) Price paid.

When I say “write down EVERYTHING,” I mean it. Thumbtacks, Q tips, makeup, bobby pins, tools, extension cords, light bulbs….if you owned it, record it.

You can be certain that the personal property you DO NOT INVENTORY will NOT be paid for.

Next article will discuss what happens next, when the adjuster begins to apply depreciation to your Contents Inventory. How can you win this fight?


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