Every fire loss is devastating, but there are often significant hidden damages that insurance companies overlook. While hidden damages of fire loss can be hard to detect with a quick survey, they should never be ignored. First, you’ll need to claim it in your property damage claim. And second, if ignored, they can lead to expensive structural issues or health concerns.
In this guide, our property damage attorneys will explain what to look for, how to deal with it and why. Let’s get started:
Common Types of Hidden Damage in Home Fires
Smoke and Soot Damage
Smoke from a fire is black because it contains particles of what’s been burned. This leaves soot throughout the property. Smoke and soot damage should not be left for long as it can cause respiratory issues, skin damage, eye damage, heart attacks and cancer. It can also have lifelong health consequences for young children.
While soot can easily be cleaned from floors, walls and appliances, it should not be a DIY job if there are large quantities. Your home insurance policy should cover the costs of hiring a professional smoke and soot removal team.
Airborne soot is invisible, so you likely won’t know if you’re breathing it in. Plus, the longer it remains, the more damage it can cause to appliances and electronics. The longer it stays, the harder it becomes to remove.
Be sure to photograph all evidence of soot after the fire to include it in your property damage claim.
Signs of smoke and soot damage include:
- Black stains
- Smoke smells
- Stained fabric
- Paint discoloration
- Signs of corrosion and rust to metal objects such as jewelry and appliances
- Floor damage
After fire damage, the next most common property damage is water damage.
The large amounts of water sprayed by the firefighters can cause havoc throughout your property. From structural concerns to electronic damage, there will be lots to repair. Plus, you’ll likely have lost electronic devices, furniture and important documents to the water damage.
You must address these concerns quickly. If left unresolved, the water can seep into the property’s walls and foundations and continue to damage your home. And then comes the mold.
Mold is a nightmare at the best of times, but after a fire, it can grow rapidly and spread throughout the home.
Black mold is linked to severe respiratory problems, particularly in people, children and the elderly. Even your pets can suffer.
While you can clean up small amounts of mold yourself, you should call a repair team if the mold is substantial. In some cases, walls, joints and trusses might need to be replaced entirely. Large quantities of mold is also dangerous to remove as a DIY job, because you’ll be at risk of breathing in the spores.
Note: Most people cannot make claims for mold alone. But if there is a bigger problem causing the mold, then you can claim on water damage. Read our guide on whether your mold damage may be the signs of a bigger water damage problem here.
Sewage and Water Pipes
Pipes are not all made of heavy-duty metal; many are made of PVC that quickly melts during fires. Pipes can also leak toxic gasses and carbon monoxide, a lethal risk.
Insurance adjusters might overlook damaged water pipes, leaving you with a hefty repair bill in the future. Ensure that you include any evidence of damaged pipes or faulty plumbing in your fire damage property claim.
Important tip: If you believe your plumbing has been damaged from a fire, turn off your water at the main valve. Avoid using the water outlets until the damage has been assessed.
Firefighters will aggressively fight through floors, windows and walls if they need to rescue someone or put out the fire. This can result in accidental gas line damage which can cause dangerous gas leaks.
If you smell a gas leak, evacuate your home to a safe distance and call 911 immediately.
Gas leaks can result in large, lethal explosions.
You can read the Red Cross guide to dealing with dangerous homes and gas leaks after fires here.
Electrical damage is another common hidden damage in a fire loss. As the fire spreads through the home, it can destroy junction boxes, leave live hanging wires and melt components. After a fire, you should immediately have the electricity shut off by contacting your power provider.
You may not be able to see the damage unless you know what you’re looking for, but the risks of leaving electrical damage unresolved can be catastrophic. Sparks from damaged wires can trigger another fire.
Electrical repairs should be covered in your home insurance policy. An experienced inspector should check all the wiring in the home to ensure safety. Risks are not worth taking. Live wires can be fatal.
Appliances and electronic devices can overheat or melt internally, causing them to become unusable or dangerous. These defects are not often noticeable at first. Ensure you take photos of any potentially damaged appliances after the fire.
Damaged HVAC systems are also a common hidden damage in a fire loss. Ventilation and heating systems can get covered in smoke and soot, which if not cleaned or replaced will result in your entire property being fed toxic gasses, particles and residues.
You might not notice this until months later when the appropriate season arrives to turn the HVAC on. So making an inspection in advance for damage is highly advised.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Fire Damage Claim?
Insurance companies love undervaluing their customers’ claims. They’ll use every possible trick and excuse to make their outgoing costs as low as possible.
As you can see, fire loss can result in various hidden damages. If these are shown to the insurance company, they’ll likely completely ignore that you need financial help to clean up your property.
By working with a property damage attorney, you can ensure you get the insurance payment you deserve.
An attorney will not get manipulated or bullied by the insurance company and, if needed, will hire an independent property inspector and other specialists to reveal the true cost of your fire loss.
Florida Property Damage Attorneys Specializing in Fire Damage Claims
If your property has suffered hidden damages from fire loss, then contact our Florida property damage attorney today.
Attorney Jonathon Douglas leads the property damage claim team nationally ranked by US News and World Reports as a Tier 1 Law Firm, Battaglia Ross Dicus & McQuaid, P.A.
Having previously represented some of the largest insurance companies in the State of Florida, Mr. Douglas uses his inside knowledge and experience to help you navigate property damage insurance claims.
Regardless of your situation, you can receive a free consultation today.