The Steps of Filing a Nova Scotia Property Damage Insurance Claim Following a Fire or Flood

There is no doubt that property damage claims in Nova Scotia due to the onset of a fire or flooding can be an extremely stressful experience for homeowners and occupants. The last thing that someone in this situation wants to do is engage with insurance adjusters. Unfortunately, the reality is that this is an inevitable action which must be done to receive needed compensation. In order to alleviate some of this burden, those of us at NOVA Injury Law have prepared this blog post to provide a step-by-step guide to make this process as smooth as possible.

Ensure Your and Your Family’s Safety

Safety is paramount in any situation, and it becomes especially crucial when dealing with emergencies, accidents, or hazardous conditions. Whether it is a disaster centred on either fire or flooding, continuing to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of you and your family should always be the top priority.

Notify Your Insurance Company About the Property Damage Claim

When faced with property damage caused by flooding or a fire, one of the first crucial steps to take is to notify your insurance company about the incident. Promptly informing your insurance provider is vital to initiate the claims process and ensure that you have the opportunity to receive the necessary support and coverage for your property damage going forward.

Review Your Nova Scotia Home Insurance Policy

Understanding the coverage and limitations of your policy is essential to ensure that you receive the appropriate compensation for the damage incurred.

Policy Coverage

Carefully examine your insurance policy to determine the specific coverage it provides for property damage claims, including how losses are precisely calculated. Review the policy’s terms and conditions, including the types of perils covered, such as fire, flood, or water damage. Understand the limitations and exclusions mentioned in the policy to have a clear idea of what may or may not be covered.

Deductibles and Limits

Take note of the deductible amount stated in your policy. This is the portion of the claim that you are responsible for paying out of pocket before the insurance coverage applies. Understanding your deductible will help you plan your finances accordingly. Additionally, be aware of any coverage limits in your policy, which define the maximum amount the insurance company will pay for a specific type of loss.

Additional Coverages

Some insurance policies offer additional coverages or endorsements that can provide enhanced protection for specific risks. Examples include coverage for temporary living expenses during the repair process, coverage for damaged personal belongings, or coverage for the replacement cost of your property rather than just the actual cash value. Familiarize yourself with any additional coverages in your policy to maximize the benefits available to you.

Policy Exclusions

Insurance policies often have exclusions, which are specific circumstances or events that are not covered. It is crucial to identify and understand these exclusions to avoid surprises during the claims process. Common exclusions may include damage caused by neglect or intentional acts, pre-existing conditions, or damage from certain natural disasters. If you have concerns about specific exclusions, consider discussing them with your insurance agent or seeking legal advice.

Proof of Loss Requirements

Review your policy for any specific requirements regarding the proof of loss process. This may involve submitting detailed documentation, including estimates, invoices, receipts, or repair quotes. Understanding these requirements beforehand will help you gather and organize the necessary documentation to support your claim.

Time Limitations

Nova Scotia Insurance policies often have time limitations for filing a claim or reporting property damage. Take note of any deadlines specified in your policy and ensure that you adhere to them. Failing to report the damage or file a claim within the designated timeframe may result in denial of coverage.

Document the Damage to your Home and Property

When faced with property damage caused by flooding or a fire, it is imperative to document the damage thoroughly. Proper documentation serves as vital evidence to support your property damage insurance claim.

Visual Documentation

One of the most effective ways to document property damage is through visual evidence. Take clear and detailed photographs and videos of all affected areas. Capture multiple angles and perspectives to provide a comprehensive view of the damage. Ensure that the images are well-lit and focused, as they will serve as critical proof of the extent of the damage.

Capture Before-and-After Comparisons

If possible, locate any photographs or videos of the property in its pre-damaged state. These “before” images serve as a valuable reference point for insurance adjusters to assess the extent of the damage accurately. By comparing the “before” and “after” visuals, insurers can better understand the scope of the loss and increase the odds of them making fair assessments.

Written Descriptions

In addition to visual documentation, provide written descriptions of the damage. Note down specific details such as the date and time of the incident, the cause of the damage (e.g., flooding or fire), and any other relevant information. Describe the affected areas, including structural damage, ruined belongings, and any other significant observations. These written descriptions add context and clarity to the visual evidence.

Inventory of Damaged Items

Create a detailed inventory of damaged items, including furniture, appliances, personal belongings, and structural components. Include the age, purchase price, and condition of each item, if possible. This inventory will assist the insurance adjuster in accurately valuing the loss and determining appropriate compensation. Receipts, invoices, and photographs of the items in their undamaged state can also bolster your claim.

Professional Assessments

In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain professional assessments of the damage. Engage licensed contractors, restoration specialists, or appraisers who can provide expert opinions on the extent of the damage and the estimated cost of repairs or replacement. These professional assessments can strengthen your claim and provide objective evidence to support your case.

Keep Detailed Records

Maintain a comprehensive record of all communications, including emails, letters, and phone conversations, with your insurance company, adjusters, and any relevant parties. Record the names, positions, and contact information of everyone you interact with during the claims process. These records will serve as a reference and help ensure that important information is accurately conveyed and documented.

Mitigate Further Damage

After experiencing property damage from a flooding or fire incident, it is crucial to take immediate steps to mitigate further damage. Acting swiftly to protect your property can help minimize additional loss and ensure a smoother property damage insurance claim process. Keep in mind that, during settlement negotiations or adjudication at trial, insurance adjusters will rely on Supreme Court rulings affirming one’s ‘duty to mitigate’ losses. For example, in Southcott Estates Inc. v. Toronto Catholic District School Board, 2012 SCC 51, the Court affirmed that one “cannot recover damages for loss that could have been reasonably avoided“.

Salvage Valuable Items

While prioritizing safety, try to salvage any valuable items that are at risk of further damage. This may include important documents, electronics, or sentimental belongings. Move these items to a safe, dry area or store them in waterproof containers if feasible. Remember, your safety takes precedence over salvaging possessions, so do not put yourself at risk in the process.

Extract Water and Dry the Area

In cases of flooding, it is essential to extract water from the affected area as quickly as possible. Use pumps, wet vacuums, or mops to remove standing water. Open windows and doors to enhance airflow and facilitate drying. Utilize dehumidifiers and fans to expedite the drying process. Mold growth can occur within 24 to 48 hours, so prompt action is crucial to prevent further damage and health hazards.

Board Up and Secure the Property

If there is structural damage or broken windows resulting from a fire or flood, secure the property to prevent unauthorized access, theft, or additional damage. Board up broken windows, reinforce damaged doors, and take steps to secure the premises. This helps protect your property from potential vandalism or further deterioration until professional repairs can be initiated.

Document Mitigation Efforts

As you undertake mitigation measures, document the steps you take to protect and preserve your property. Take photographs or videos of the mitigation process, including the extraction of water, drying techniques, and any temporary repairs or security measures implemented. This documentation will serve as evidence of your proactive and “reasonable” efforts to prevent further damage.

Call the Insurance Company and Start the Negotiation Process

Negotiating and settling a property damage insurance claim is a critical phase that directly impacts the compensation you receive for the damages incurred. It is essential to approach this process strategically to maximize your claim and ensure fair reimbursement.

Consider Hiring a Lawyer to Help with Your Insurance Claim

Effective negotiation can be a daunting task and requires skill to be done properly. Obtaining legal counsel at NOVA Injury Law will allow you to be represented by those who specialize in insurance claims. Our professional advocates can provide expertise, defend your rights, and help level the playing field significantly. They possess the experience and knowledge necessary to navigate the complexities of insurance claims, negotiate on your behalf, and maximize your compensation.

Engage with Your Insurance Adjuster

Maintain open and proactive communication with your insurance adjuster throughout the negotiation process. Clearly and concisely articulate your case, presenting the evidence you have gathered. Address any questions or concerns raised by the adjuster and be prepared to provide additional information or documentation as needed.

Negotiate in Good Faith

Approach the negotiation process with a mindset of good faith and open communication. Be professional, respectful, and prepared to discuss your claim in a constructive manner. Focus on the facts, emphasize the evidence, and clearly articulate your position to the insurance adjuster. Be willing to listen and consider their perspective while advocating for your rights and ensuring fair compensation.

Document all Communication

Throughout the negotiation process, keep a record of all communication with the insurance company, including emails, letters, and any written or verbal agreements. This documentation serves as evidence of the negotiation process and can be used to support your claim in case of any disputes or discrepancies.

Receive and Review the Final Settlement Offer for Your Property Damage Insurance Claim

Receiving and reviewing the final settlement offer is a crucial step in the property damage insurance claims process. It is essential to carefully examine the settlement to ensure that it adequately compensates you for the damages incurred.

Assess the Adequacy of the Offer

When reviewing the settlement offer, assess its adequacy in relation to the damages and expenses incurred. Consider whether the compensation offered covers the full extent of the repairs, replacements, and any other costs associated with the incident. Evaluate the offer in light of the documentation, evidence, and estimates you gathered during the claims process.

Review the Terms and Conditions

Thoroughly review the terms and conditions outlined in the settlement offer. Pay attention to any clauses or provisions that may affect your rights or obligations. Ensure that the settlement addresses all aspects of your claim and that you are comfortable with the proposed resolution.

Evaluate the Finality of the Settlement

Consider the finality of accepting the settlement offer. Once you accept the offer and sign any release documents, it is typically binding; you may forfeit the right to pursue further compensation for the same incident. Assess whether the compensation offered adequately addresses the damages and expenses, taking into account any potential long-term implications or hidden costs.

Make a Decision and Whether a Settlement Offer is Fair

If you fully understand your rights and are satisfied with the offer that has been attained through settlement, then feel free to accept it. However, in some property damage insurance claims, reaching a satisfactory settlement through negotiation might be unattainable. In such situations, policyholders may need to consider filing legal action to pursue their rights and seek appropriate remedies. Promptly reach out to an experienced and well-versed attorney at NOVA Injury Law when this is needed.

Contact NOVA Injury Law To Help You With Your Property Damages Insurance Claim

Engaging in the claim-filing process can be a daunting task for individuals who have suffered property damage following fire or flood damage. The best thing to do is to contact NOVA Injury Law as soon as possible. You will benefit from peace of mind knowing that your claim is being handled by lawyers who are local to your area, experienced negotiators, well-versed in the applicable laws and regulations, and provide flexible and convenient payment options. Book a free consultation today!