Top Ten Tips for Wildfire Claimants
1. Obtain a complete copy of your residential insurance policy, including your declarations page.
The law requires your insurance company to provide this to you free of charge within 30 days of
your request. Ask your agent or insurer representative to explain your relevant coverages.
2. Take note of your Additional Living Expense (ALE) limits and manage your ALE expenses in
recognition of a long rebuilding process.
3. Track all of your additional expenses that arise from having to live in another location away from
4. Document all of your conversations with your insurer/adjuster about your claim and policy
limitations. Ask the adjuster to point out the specific provision in the policy being cited.
5. Get at least one licensed contractor’s estimate or bid on the cost to rebuild your home just to get
a reasonable sense of the actual cost as compared to your coverage limits (for more
considerations on contractors, view the CDI’s electronic brochure Don’t Get Burned After a
Disaster and check the website for California’s Contractors State License Board.
6. Call the Department of Insurance Hotline for help at (800) 927-4357. Consider insights from
7. Understand you can purchase at another location, and still receive full replacement cost
benefits. You also have the right to rebuild using your own contractor. In order to reduce the cost
of rebuilding, you might also consider a community wide development.
8. Assess your situation, do not rush into any decision about contractors, lawyers or public
adjustors – consider your mortgage/employment/financial situation, your age, children’s schools,
your willingness to deal with construction issues (no matter who your contractor is). Of course,
move forward if you have obtained multiple bids from reputable licensed contractors, are certain
you want to rebuild, are sure of the rebuilding costs and your insurance limits and want to be
sure you are a priority for your selected contractor to start the rebuild. The Contractors State
License Board (CSLB) has publications that can help you identify and avoid problems before
they occur. Contact CSLB at 1-800-321-2752 to obtain a free copy of their publications and/or
verify the licensing status of a contractor.
9. Do not assume you have inadequate coverage based on general information you are hearing
about building costs or other general comments. The adequacy of your limits needs to be
addressed on a case specific basis to determine how much it will cost to rebuild your home
and whether your limits, including extended replacement cost coverage if applicable, are
10. Evaluate whether you will need a public adjustor or attorney to help you with your claim. Note
that for long rebuilding processes you are likely to use your entire ALE limits and if you are also
reimbursed by your insurer for your entire personal property loss or your full personal property
limits, then there may be no need for the assistance of a public adjustor or lawyer to help you
obtain full settlements for either of these coverages.
Public adjusters require a percentage of the claim settlement for their services. Make sure you
understand what they charge and the services you are paying for before you sign a contract.
Also, a public adjuster cannot charge a fee for payments already received from the insurance
company, so you should consider getting as much advance payment as possible from the
insurance company (without signing a final release) before hiring a public adjuster. This way the
fee may only be charged for the additional moneys the public adjuster gets for you, Public
adjusters are required to be licensed by the California Department of Insurance. To verify a
public adjuster’s license, call us at 1-800-927-4357 or check the status online by name or by
license number. Practicing without a license is against the law.