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How to Handle Your Insurance Claim After a Home Fire: An Interview with Chris Arevalo of Farmers Insurance

By Chris Arevalo

Tell us a little bit about your experience, company history, and the services you offer.

I've been working with Farmers Insurance since 1995. I started as a Property Claims Adjuster, moved to Austin to be a Marketing Specialist, moved back to Houston to help build a District by recruiting and training agents, and then became an agent for Farmers Insurance in January of 2000. I work with my father who has been a Farmers Agent since 1984. I offer homeowners insurance, auto insurance, umbrellas, business insurance, life insurance, and financial services including college savings plans, retirement plans, and IRA rollovers.

What tips can you give to help people in Texas make sure they're properly insured before a potential fire?

The best thing to do to document your belongings is take photos and/or videos of everything you own and store them off site. It doesn't take long to walk the house with a video camera while explaining the items in the shot so if a claim ever did happen, you would have a great record of what you owned at that time. I often keep customers' videos and photos in their files at my office to help with a potential claim. That way if a fire or storm were to damage their home, the documented video and/or photos won't be destroyed with the home.

Is there something most people don't know about the claim process that they should know?

Most people don't realize that in the event of a claim insurance companies request that the customer will need to make a list of the items that were stolen or damaged including the date of purchase, place of purchase, and their original cost. This is where the video and photos will really help. Also, if you have more than $500 - $2,000 worth of jewelry, watches, and or guns/ammo, you should speak to your agent to make sure your policy is covering these items as there are limitations in Texas.

Can you explain what a public adjuster is and how a public adjuster can help homeowners who have experienced a fire on their property?

Public adjusters are adjusters that are hired by the insured and paid for outside of the claims process by the insured. The thought process is the public adjuster will help recover more money than a staff adjuster that works for the insurance company and therefore help justify their expense. Coming from a claims background, I can say that Farmers Insurance is fantastic in dealing with our insureds come claim time. I was repeatedly told as an adjuster to always pay what we owe and if there is a grey area to try our best to find a way to help our customer through their loss. You are already paying for the company adjuster's salary through your premiums so I would recommend getting a Public Adjuster only if you are having problems with your company adjuster and/or supervisor.

What are the basic steps that homeowners should take after a fire until their claim is settled?

In the event of a loss by fire, I would suggest they begin to document their loss as best they can. Again, any video or pictures of your property will help document the loss as most people lose track of just how much stuff they accumulate with time. Most policies provide "loss of use" coverage that will help to provide payments for any expenses that are above and beyond what the insured normally would have incurred if it weren't for the loss. This coverage helps to pay for any meals, hookup fees, and apartments or rental property expenses that might be needed while their home is being repaired or rebuilt.

I would also suggest to work closely with your adjuster; and if you ever have problems with them being responsive to you, don't hesitate to call the adjuster's supervisor and your insurance agent. I am always eager to help my customers through the claims process as it is usually a confusing and stressful time in their lives. We often don't know you need help if you don't let us know.

What regrets have you seen people in Texas have when it comes to making an insurance claim due to fire? What advice would you give to help other homeowners avoid this?

The regrets I've mostly seen with regards to fire losses is inadequate coverage for jewelry, watches, and guns. Be sure to talk to your agent about limitations your policy might have on these and other items. Also, most people just don't realize how much personal property they have accumulated with time. Take those photos and videos!

What's the best way for people to reach you and your company?

I can be reached at my office Monday to Friday at 281-491-8989 or by email at carevalo@farmersagent.com. Give me a call and I'd be happy to help!

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About The Author

I've been working with Farmers Insurance since 1995. I offer homeowners insurance,...

Phone: 281-491-8989

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