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Published in Economic times on Apr 29 2016, Written by Kapil Mehta
A fire entails not just tremendous physical and financial damage, but also a fair amount of emotional and mental trauma. Nobody expects a fire, so it’s important to be prepared for how to deal with one, if it ever does occur. The aftermath of a fire is stressful and difficult to deal with, so knowing how to go about filing a fire insurance claim the right way, right away, is essential.
In the incidence of a fire, especially if it has taken place in a large commercial edifice, it is important that the manager or supervisor report the fire to three important stakeholders: the fire department, police, and insurance company. The third stakeholder is the only one that can potentially restore some of your financial losses, if your claim is approved. This is why it is especially important that the claim is registered immediately, both verbally and in writing, stating the correct policy number. You will also need to fill up a claim form and submit it to the insurance company in order to get your claim process to begin. The claim form requires basic information about your insurance, a description of how the fire occurred and will usually highlight the furniture, fixtures and other assets that were destroyed during the fire with the resultant financial implication.
Once you inform the insurance company, a surveyor will visit your premises to assess the damages and to validate the claim that has been made. He may ask for an asset list of the property, and after discussing the case with the police and other concerned parties, will submit the claim to the insurance company along with his report. During this process, the surveyor may need additional documents and information in order to arrive at a conclusion, and may ask for documentary evidence. This could include photocopies of necessary documents, a history of the property, or other requisite details. While it can be difficult to entertain a barrage of questions, you should know that the surveyor can help address the unwelcome nightmare. He or she can help you, provided you give them the right information, to stack the assets on your balance sheet a little higher. So help them take the right photographs, survey the zone well and ask you the right questions.
Just like you would if you were uninsured, you will have to submit your case to the local fire station, police authorities and other civil authorities. Copies of these reports need to be handed to your surveyor to aid in the claim approval process. The surveyor may also need to be given licenses, permits and certifications in order to validate that business operations are being conducted lawfully and as per the required safety norms. Once the surveyor has completed his assessment, the final report will be handed to the insurance company, and if you would like a copy, you could ask for one too. Surveyors sometimes hesitate to share this report with you but the regulations are clear that this must be provided.
Once the claim reaches the insurance company, it’s time for you to sit back and wait. The company may take some time to review your claim, but they generally respond within 30 days. Using the report submitted by the surveyor, the insurance company will determine whether the claim can be approved and if so, to what degree. If the fire has destroyed assets within your policy’s purview, you will likely be compensated for the damages, so that you can start building your property again, a little at a time.