Smoke, Ash and Thermal Damage Claims Attorney

The wine country wild fires burned thousands of acres and destroyed thousands of homes throughout Santa Rosa, Napa, Calistoga and Sonoma. However, given the size of the collection of fires, many many more homes were exposed to and damaged by smoke, ash and extreme heat. Insurance companies often view these type of claims as low priority and claims adjusters are well known for attempting to cover up smoke damage.

After exposure to smoke, soot or extreme heat, your home and all of your possessions need to be thoroughly inspected, cleaned and restored to the condition that existed before the exposure event. Smoke damage can be visible and invisible, so it is extremely important that licensed experienced professionals inspect every inch of your home. Even if your home appears undamaged it may have been exposed

Most Common Parts of Home Affected by Smoke, Soot and Heat

  • Roof – Extreme heat and burning embers can damage and compromise the structure of the roof.
  • Structural Steel and Iron – Heat can destabilize your home’s foundation or retaining wall.
  • Stucco Siding and Concrete – Cracked stucco, melted siding and damage to concrete foundations are common.
  • Windows – Heat can melt, blister and discolor window frames and warp or discolor window glass.
  • Interior – Smoke and soot can significantly damage carpet, drapes and any pours surfaces. Smoke can even discolor marble and tile.
  • Appliances – Appliances can be heavily damaged and need to be replaced.
  • Plumbing and Heating Systems – Pipes, ducts and connectors may also suffer damage.
  • Landscaping – While dead plants and trees are easy to see, the soil may be contaminated for years.

What to do after Your Home is Exposed

  1. Document everything – Take pictures of all the visible damage. If anyone in the household is experiencing health problems, report it to a medical professional. The symptoms may be related to the smoke and soot from the fire.
  2. Cooperate – Dealing with insurance adjusters and inspectors can be difficult, but inspections need to be done in order to move forward on your claim. Take detailed notes on both the inspections and all conversations you have with adjustors and inspectors.
  3. Keep Pushing Back – Don’t let insurance companies push you around. Advocate for thorough inspections, testing and for you home to be restored to how it was before the fire. Do not accept patchwork or half repairs.
  4. Hire your own experts – If you feel that your insurance company is not willing to inspect appropriately, remind them of their legal obligation to do so by hiring an attorney. Having an advocate on your side is often enough in itself to get insurance companies to comply, but if not, an attorney can help locate and pay for experts to help make sure your home is clean and safe.

The Most Common Problems with Smoke Damage Claims

Dealing with insurance companies is never easy, but partial loss smoke, ash and heat claims pose particular issues for most homeowners.

  1. Hidden Damage – this can include air quality, ducts, studs in the wall, and even mold after smoke exposure.
  2. Inadequate Cleaning – Insurance companies will often cut corners and not thoroughly clean the areas of your home that are necessary or hire unqualified vendors to perform substandard work.
  3. Delays – This is especially common after major disasters (such as the wildfires), these types of claims are often pushed down as low priority.
  4. Line of Sight – Your property should be returned to a ‘uniform and consistent appearance’ even if that means replacing undamaged items to insure that everything matches. This may mean replacing all the carpet or all the roof tiles, not just the damaged areas or tiles.

If you have any reason to believe that your insurer has not conducted proper inspections or dealt with your smoke and soot claim fairly, contact a California wildfire victims attorney today.



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