Before disaster strikes
Keep an inventory list (with photos and video, if possible) of your belongings and store it in a safe place, like a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box outside your home. Emailing it to yourself ensures that you can retrieve it anywhere you have access to the internet. If you have receipts and photos to document valuables, you will streamline the claim process when needed.
Building a home inventory is easy with this free checklist. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Android smart phone, you can also download the free home inventory application.
After the disaster
If your property -- auto, home or other insured building -- is damaged by wildfires, severe weather, and other disasters:
- Call your insurance company or agent as soon as possible.
- Remember that others in your community will also be contacting their insurance companies. Be patient, but persistent. If you get a busy signal, wait and call again later.
- Ask your insurance agent what information is needed to file a claim. To help the claim process move smoothly, have your policy number ready, if possible.
- Take photographs or video of the damage before things are cleaned up or repaired.
- Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs, unless your insurance company directs you to do so. If you can do so safely, make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property by covering broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls. If going back into the area could be dangerous, don't do it.
- Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs covered by your insurance policy. Plastic tarps or sheeting used to protect broken windows and damaged buildings from additional exposure to elements are usually covered by your homeowners policy.
- If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, you may have coverage for additional living expenses while repairs are being made. This is true for most standard homeowners policies.
- If you cannot stay in your home, save all receipts, including hotel stays, reasonable meals, and any necessities that you must buy. Not everything may be covered, but without receipts, you may be out of luck.
Document your losses
Ideally, you have an inventory list and photos of your valuables available, stored online in a safe place. If not, you can use a home inventory checklist to help you remember any property that was lost or damaged in each room in your house.
Which types of damage are covered?
Damage caused by wildfires, wind, wind-driven rain, damage to your home from trees or other falling objects, collapse of a structure due to weight of hail or debris are all covered under most standard homeowners policies. Refer to your policy contract for details.
Types of damage generally not covered by standard homeowners policies include:
- Interior water damage from a storm when there is no damage to the roof or walls
- Damage resulting from a flood (consider buying a separate flood insurance policy)
- Removal of fallen trees that do not land on or damage your home
- Food spoilage due to a power outage
- Water damage from backed-up drains or sewers
You may purchase additional coverage for some of these events.
If your car is damaged by a storm or wildfire, take the following steps:
Call your insurance agent or insurance company with your policy number and file your claim as soon as possible. Ask your agent what you'll need to file a claim.
Ask your insurance company if you have coverage for a rental vehicle if your car is not drivable. Save any receipts and bills, including those from a car rental, towing, or storage of your damaged car.
If your car was damaged and you have comprehensive coverage with car rental, call your insurance company right away. They can usually schedule a rental car for you quickly, while yours is being repaired.
Need more help?
Call the Commissioner's hotline at 800-332-6148.