After the Fire: A Recovery Guide Part Five- Documenting Your Loss

After a fire loss, you will be worried about health and safety and finding appropriate shelter. Going through and making a detailed inventory of your belongings may not be at the forefront of your mind, but it is a crucial step nonetheless. You will generally need to make lists of things in your home that were lost or damaged. This is tedious, but often necessary work. Creating a detailed inventory list can also help you if you decide to pursue a legal claim, as you will already have an idea of your damages. The earlier you create your inventory list, while the contents of your home are still fresh in your mind, the better.

Some tips to follow

If you are pursuing an insurance claim and you have a total loss, some carriers will waive the proof of loss requirement and simply pay the policy limits. If the carrier isn’t waiving anything or you have a partial loss, then you can stop your list once the values are at or slightly above your policy limits. It is important to note, however, that many insurance companies are agreeing to make additional payments on personal property claims for victims of the North Bay fires following pressure from the insurance commissioner. This means that you may be able to receive 100% coverage for your personal property without itemization, but it is always best to check with your carrier first.

Even so, you may wish to prepare a complete list, either for completeness’ sake, or just in case there is a need to make a claim outside of insurance.

Reconstructing You Loss

Trying to reconstruct what you’ve lost can be fairly straightforward if the items you are claiming reimbursement for are only damaged. Total loss can be a different matter altogether, and is often more difficult.

Some people have a home inventory that they keep “just in case.” That is not the case for most people, though. And even if you do have an inventory, it is not always guaranteed that it would be completely current. But if you have one, it will be a blessing now and make the whole process much less complicated.

Probably the best strategy is not to try to remember everything in your entire home or building at once. Sit down, draw a floorplan and then start working room by room or floor by floor. If it helps, break up the rooms into sections and start with just one corner. You can continue methodically from there, working through the entire room. You also don’t have to try to finish it all in one session. It also helps to work for no more than an hour to an hour and a half at a time, making sure that you take breaks in between. It’s a distance race, not a sprint.

If you have photos they can be a great resource to help compile your list. Maybe there is video of your home pre-fire; with all the smart phones out there, that happens more and more. Even if you don’t have photos from before the fire, get plenty of photos of the damage. It helps to organize your visual evidence by room.

Figuring Out Your Loss

If you have receipts, this is the time to get them organized. Copies of receipts are strong evidence of what you lost and can help expedite the process. You also might have access to your bank or credit card statements that can be helpful if you have an idea of when you purchased an item. Also, don’t forget any records you might have kept on your computer of purchases you made. If your computer was lost in the fire, think if you might have an email receipt you can now go back to retrieve.

Family and friends can help you fill in the gaps for the things you can’t quite recall. Visits to a housewares shop or department store can jog your memory. You can even use a bridal registry scanner to get prices for things you lost.

Browsing on Amazon or an online shop can be helpful as well. Search for a lost item, say a frying pan, then look at the other items that pop up as related in the “customers who bought this item also bought” section. You’ll see additional things like spatulas, mixers, mandolin slicers and other such knick-knacks that you might have otherwise overlooked.

On line stores will also help you get replacement cost prices for lost or damaged items.

Going through your belongings or trying to recreate the contents of your lost home can be a difficult and traumatic process. But getting it done early on in the recovery process can save you time and energy down the road. Even if your insurance company is one that has agreed to waive the proof of loss requirement, having a detailed inventory can be incredibly helpful if you do decide to pursue another claim or litigation down the road.

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