Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ten Tips to Claim Homeowner's Insurance after a Catastrophic Event

A ruptured natural gas transmission line caused explosion
in San Bruno (Source: CNN)
Dozens of homes were destroyed and lives were tragically lost as a result of a deadly explosion in San Bruno on September 9, 2010. The damages and losses that many of my colleagues (my office is located in San Bruno), friends, and clients may suffer are still unaccounted for. My heart goes out to all the families who lose their love ones and homes in this catastrophic event.

After the fire has been extinguished, the process of recovery is just the beginning. Residents who own a home that have been destroyed or damaged are urged to review their homeowner’s policies for details for their coverage. According to Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in a press release, the evacuees “may be eligible to be reimbursed for additional living expenses incurred as a result of evacuating”.

If you are a victim who suffered losses or damages of your home due to the San Bruno fire, here are ten tips offered by the California Department of Insurance (CDI):
  1. Contact your insurance company immediately to report your loss. Follow the instructions given to you by claims personnel. Ask questions if you do not understand your adjuster's instructions. From the beginning, keep a log of the names of the people you speak with along with dates, times, and a summary of the pertinent points of each conversation.
  2. Act prudently to prevent further loss to your property. Insurance policies may not cover ensuing damage if you have not taken reasonable steps to protect against subsequent property damage.
  3. Take pictures documenting damages.
  4. Do not rush into repairs or rebuilding without first considering all your alternatives.
  5. Ask your insurance agent or company representative to help you with your claim, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Your insurer provides an adjuster at no charge to you. If you decide to work directly with your insurer, you still have the right to hire a third-party professional (e.g., public adjuster or lawyer) to help you.
  6. If you hire a public adjuster or attorney to help you with a claim, be certain that the adjuster is licensed and that the lawyer is in good standing. Public adjusters and lawyers will usually require a percentage of the claim settlement for their services. It is important that you understand what services are being provided and the fees that will be charged. Ask your friends, relatives, or business associates for the names of well-regarded professionals in your community.
  7. To verify a public adjuster's license, call the CDI.
  8. To learn about attorneys and standards for lawyer-client fees, or to file a complaint against an attorney, contact the California State Bar at 800-843-9053.
  9. Do not repair or replace your loss without first getting instructions from your adjuster, since your insurer's visual inspection of your loss may be necessary before repairs begin.
  10. Do not throw away damaged property until your adjuster advises you it is all right to do so.


  1. If you are curious about the location of of gas pipelines in your area, you may go to the NPMS public map viewer (

  2. I have a co-worker that was affected by the whole San Bruno fire. Her home was just one home away from being burnt. Fortunately for her, her home is structurally unaffected. However, the smoke, soot, and heat did affect both the interior and exterior of her home (and they just happened to keep all the windows open that day).

    She started cleaning everything when I told her about you blog. She should first document the damage. PGE is now paying for the cleanup of her home but they might also contact their insurance company based on your blog.


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