We’re not experts on fire, but we do know insurance. We can help you prepare yourself before disaster strikes and after the smoke clears. If you experience losses due to wildfire and are having a difficult time with your insurance company, call our office at (406) 444-2040.

Fire Tips From Commissioner Troy Downing

Before the First Spark

Keep an inventory list – with photos and video, if possible – of your belongings and store 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 you are trying to recover from a disaster.

Questions about your claim?
Call our office at (406) 444-2040.

What Do You Have?

We took the guesswork out of making a home inventory. Download our free inventory checklist now. Or you can get it for free on your iPhone or Android.

Download the List

After the Disaster

If your property — auto, home or other insured building — is damaged by severe weather, wildfire, or other disasters:

Call your insurance company or agent as soon as possible. If this was a large-scale event with multiple losses,  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 they need 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 make repairs until your insurance company has inspected the property or given you written permission to do so. If you can do so safely, mitigate further damage by making the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property. If possible, cover broken windows or leaking roofs. Don’t take chances — if going back into the area is not safe, 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 homeowner’s 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 or 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.

Damage from a fire will be covered like any other covered peril in your insurance policy, including but not limited to hail, wind, explosion, or theft. The two most common types of compensated losses in a fire loss are damage to your dwelling and your personal property.

Keep in mind that there are limitations and exclusions in your policy that may apply. Coverage for things like debris removal, jewelry or other structures on your property may be limited. That is why it is important to read your insurance policy.

You have a contractual obligation to cooperate with your insurance company in the claims process. They are obligated to do a complete investigation of the loss based on all available information. Obtaining a written or verbal statement from you, as the insured is a part of the investigation. If you fail to do this, the company may have reason to deny your claim for failure to cooperate with them under the terms of the contract.

You have a contractual obligation to mitigate your damages so further damage doesn’t occur. It may take a few days or more for an adjuster to come to inspect your home after a loss occurs. For example, if your roof was damaged and would allow rain to enter your home in its damaged state, do a temporary fix to that part of the roof so further damage won’t happen until an adjuster comes out to look at your home.

You have a contractual obligation to provide your insurance company proof of the amount of your loss in the form of receipts or estimates. While this may be cumbersome, the company can require this. A handwritten note with an estimate of the expenses that do not come from a vendor, store, or contractor will not be adequate. You must be able to provide evidence to support your claim for damages. For example, if you are claiming additional living expenses you must support this with hotel receipts.

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