Anyone who’s ever lived through a house fire knows that it can be one of the most devastating and terrifying experiences of a lifetime. After a fire, many people are in a state of shock, thinking irrationally or not knowing what to do. Here are the basic steps you need to take following a house fire and why you may need a Wisconsin fire accident lawyer to help you.
Know When It’s Safe to Reenter Your Home
Don’t go back into your house until you’ve received permission by professionals that’s it is safe to reenter. Often, regardless of the amount of damage, homeowners aren’t permitted to go inside a fire-damaged house. If you can’t temporarily stay with family members, neighbors or friends, contact a disaster relief agency in your area, such as the Salvation Army or the American Red Cross as they can help you find a temporary and safe place.
Make Phone Calls
After contacting family members to tell them what occurred and reassure them that you’re okay, if this is the case, call your insurance agent, so a claim addressing your needs can get started. Besides helping you secure your property, your agent should give you a “loss of use” funds that covers basic daily living expenses. Also, your insurance agent should recommend cleanup options, such as how to clean up salvageable items or provide referrals for professional cleaners.
Don’t forget to call your employer, and if you have children, contact their schools. Notify your local post office to have your mail either forwarded to your temporary new address or placed on hold. This depends on how long you expect to be out of your home.
Contact services, such as your cable company, water supplier, gas or electric company and other services. If your house fire is under investigation, call your local police department.
Know When to Hire a Professional Cleaner
You’ll need to have your house cleaned if it’s been damaged but not destroyed. Consider that there can be invisible damage, so it’s best to have a fire-damaged house or building cleaned up by professionals. This is especially critical if a fire was extinguished using water hoses because drying out your house is extremely important. In other words, use a professional cleaner for cleaning up a combination of fire and water damage.
In most cases, possessions that have been destroyed in fires are covered by insurance policies. When it’s safe to go back into your house, look for damaged belongings. Before touching an item, photograph it. Then, put each item in a plastic garbage bag. Cover large belongings, such as furniture, with tarp.
After compiling a list of all the damaged possessions that you’ve seen or have recovered, record their condition and serial numbers. For example, list a water-damaged red sofa, etc. This helps you receive coverage from your insurance claim.
Considerations and Warnings
- Keep a record of all your purchases and save receipts.
- Understand what’s involved in a fire report. In addition to stating the date and time of the fire, it also indicates the affected area(s). Additionally, a fire report includes the pertinent details of who was at the fire, the resources there and other significant data.
- Take care of bills. Even if your house has been destroyed by fire, you’ll still have to continue to keep up with your mortgage payments. Moreover, car payments need to be paid, and you may need to replace fire-damaged or destroyed debit or credit cards.
- Always pay your bank first. Any funds that are left over can be used for rebuilding a buying a new home.
- The main kinds of fire damage include ash, soot, smoke, charring and odor.
- If there’s only minor damage to a single room, you may be able to do the cleaning yourself. But for extensive damage, call a professional.
- If household wiring has been damaged by water that was used when putting out the fire, have a licensed electrician check it before turning the power back on.
- If needed, get counseling for family members who need help in dealing with feelings of disorientation or who feel depressed and helpless from the devastation of a fire.
- Sometimes fires are caused by the negligence or intent of someone else. In other cases, an insurance carrier may deny clients coverage for a fire or undervalue the amount of smoke damage. In these cases, you will need to call a Wisconsin fire accident lawyer.
If you have suffered from a fire accident that wasn’t your fault or feel you haven’t been treated fairly by your insurance agent, please contact us at Harnitz Law Office. We’re committed to giving our Wisconsin clients the high quality representation they deserve so that they can receive the best results possible in their cases. We have a wide range of practice areas, including personal injury, collection and consumer law, real estate law, business transactions, along with other litigation matters.