Now that the Black Forest Fire, as well as the other pre-summer Colorado fires are at least 85 percent contained, those who lost their homes and businesses are faced with the arduous task of rebuilding. One of the most important steps those who must rebuild must do is file an insurance claim.
During last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire, there was an influx of out-of-state private insurance adjustors who charged high fees when residents could have avoided this cost had they contacted their insurance agent directly. Most insurance companies employ their own adjusters to evaluate property damage and assist in filing claims. Some public adjustors charge a fee and then disappear. Others may refer the homeowner to a disreputable contactor, from whom they receive a kickback. Taking advantage of the relationship you have with your insurance agent is the most prudent course.
Another challenge for those who lost property – especially during this highly emotional time – is to avoid being pressured into signing any documents. The victim may not be aware that what they are actually signing is an enforceable contract.
Here are some tips:
- Start with bbb.org and read the company’s BBB Business Review.
- Get everything in writing and don’t sign anything without some type of professional or even legal advice. Also, don’t sign anything without having a thorough understanding of what is being proposed.
- Find out if the company is local; are they going to be around in six months?
- Make sure the contractor is licensed and has up-to-date insurance.
- Check the references provided by the contactor. Often the reference will say they are no longer satisfied with the work and do not wish to be a reference.
- Be skeptical of anyone who shows up at your home and offers discounted rates.
There are several additional resources victims may want to explore including the National Disaster Legal Aid website. It’s a collaborative effort among the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and Pro Bono Net to serve victims of disasters. The site serves as a centralized national resource to provide pro bono legal aid related to all types of disasters.HELPFUL LINKS
www.disasterlegalaid.org: National Disaster Legal Aid
www.rmiia.org: Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association
www.coloradoroofing.org: Colorado Roofing Association