With National Wildfire Awareness Month upon us, it’s important to remember that claims related to wildfires can surge at any time. Having the right information and tools at your disposal is paramount to navigating complex claims cycles.
In this blog post, we’ll share some essential tips for handling wildfire claims more efficiently. Documenting damages effectively, sourcing contractors and communicating with policyholders will help guide a smooth recovery process for all involved parties.
Common Problems Homeowners Encounter During Wildfire Season
Many issues that arise during the wildfire season originate from the homeowner’s perspective. A lack of physical preparedness can invite greater risk of damage. Additionally, fires can occur suddenly, and it’s not uncommon for homeowners to lack the resources needed to respond to the aftermath of a fire.
Problem #1 – Inadequate Homeowner Preparedness
As the wildfire season ramps up, it’s important for homeowners to take steps to prepare their property and themselves. Unfortunately, many homeowners are unprepared for wildfires, which can lead to devastating losses.
There are a number of things that homeowners can do to prepare for wildfires. A few of these include simple measures like:
- Creating defensible space by clearing brush and combustible materials.
- Making an evacuation plan and training all household residents.
- Staying involved with community groups and discussing fire preparedness planning.
- Storing valuables in a fireproof safe.
Listening to emergency personnel when wildfires approach and evacuating according to the plan can save lives. Always prioritize safety and follow instructions when a fire is approaching.
Carriers have the power to help homeowners prepare by supplying wildfire prevention and restoration tips. Information sheets and educational materials can make a difference on the ground. Through advanced preparations, homeowners can reduce risks of loss.
Problem #2 – Insufficient Insurance Coverage
Many homeowners do not carry adequate coverage for wildfires. It’s important to understand the policies and coverages offered as they may not cover all the costs associated with wildfire damage.
This can leave homeowners with significant out-of-pocket expenses after a wildfire. Homeowners must complete due diligence by communicating with their agent and reviewing coverages.
Asking your agents these key questions can help secure adequate coverage:
- What is the total value of my home or business?
- How much does my policy cover for rebuilding costs?
- Is there a separate limit for contents?
- Do I need additional coverage for special items like jewelry or art?
If you don’t have enough coverage, you’ll be responsible for paying the difference out of pocket. Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out!
Problem #3 – Navigating Complex Claims Processes
The claims process for wildfire damages can be complex and time-consuming. This can be frustrating for homeowners who are trying to recover from a disaster.
Following a wildfire event, homeowners are often displaced and have trouble communicating. Carriers and adjusters can step up to help during these difficult times.
Hancock Claims offers assistance in securing temporary housing and mapping logistics to help adjusters and homeowners get on track early in the claims process. With homeowners in a safe location, adjusters can effectively communicate and offer peace of mind to insureds that inspections are scheduled and contractors are working to make them whole again.
The Hancock tech stack is intentionally designed to integrate with partner systems, making for seamless transitions and smooth adjuster processes. Overall, it serves to remove barriers and complications for both insureds and adjusters.
Problem #4 – Limited Availability of Coverage
Some insurance companies may be hesitant to provide coverage for homes located in high-risk wildfire areas, which can make it difficult for homeowners to obtain the necessary protection. In these instances, homeowners should work with agents to maximize protections while also putting in extra effort to prepare their property.
The FEMA Checklist for Homeowners is a handy guide for preparation. It covers everything from defensible space to construction material considerations. Homeowners can replace flammable siding with fire-resistant materials, landscape to increase defensible space and go above and beyond in their preparedness efforts.
By proving preparedness, a homeowner’s odds of securing coverage increase, which correlates naturally with reduced risk.
How Carriers and Adjusters Can Better Serve Policyholders During Wildfire Season
While homeowners are responsible for preparedness, carriers and adjusters play a pivotal role in disaster recovery. The ability to respond immediately while processing a claims surge isn’t easy. With the right tools and resources, however, adjusters can be highly effective after a wildfire strikes.
Solve for a Lack of Resources
Insurance companies and homeowners may struggle to find the necessary resources to prevent and restore damage from wildfires, such as skilled contractors, materials and equipment.
When disaster strikes, resources are spread thin, which can bog down response times. At Hancock, we are ready to step up and support adjusters to ensure they have everything needed at their fingertips.
Hancock Claims is truly an Under One Roof solution for adjusters. Adjusters who partner with Hancock can:
- Take care of their policyholders with temporary housing services.
- Access a nationwide network of inspectors and contents specialists on standby.
- Bring information from the field to their desk using Hancock’s technology stack.
- Source fully vetted and qualified contractors from the Preferred Repair Network.
- Schedule and utilize engineers and other professional services within the Preferred Expert Services Network.
- Manage everything from a single point of contact.
Adjusters and carriers can skip the busy work and focus on moving claims forward by tapping into the full suite of services from Hancock Claims.
Navigate Political and Regulatory Issues
Wildfire prevention and restoration efforts can be hindered by political and regulatory issues such as disagreements over land management practices or restrictions on prescribed burns.
Feedback from national, state and local governing bodies can present conflicting information. For example, a state may create wildfire prevention guidelines for homeowners while a specific HOA advocates for covering ground areas with dry and highly flammable organic materials to create an aesthetic.
Insurance companies can communicate best practices and requirements for homeowners to maintain coverage. These should be based on federal and state guidelines for wildfire preparedness.
In the aftermath of a fire, rebuilding should happen with special attention to construction and landscaping styles designed specifically to withstand future wildfires.
Monitor Climate Change and Wildfire Season
The increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires due to climate change can make it difficult for homeowners and insurance companies to accurately predict and prepare for wildfire risks. From 2021 to 2022, there was an average 8% increase in wildfire claims. The average payout for wildfire claims hit $224,000 as of March 2022.
Wildfires thrive in dry climates, and the increase in drought-ridden regions correlates with more active fire seasons. Humans cause 90% of wildfires, which also lends itself to the lack of predictability. There is no way to determine when or where a fire will start due to the human element.
With all of this in mind, it becomes imperative for at-risk communities to follow National Wildfire Awareness Month tips supplied by the federal government. Taking action is the best way to mitigate losses from wildfires.
Don’t let the coming wildfire season leave you overwhelmed and buried beneath a massive claims surge. With wildfire claims increasing, Hancock Claims is prepared to help adjusters and carriers better serve policyholders while processing claims quickly and accurately. Simply request a service to get started.