State Farm Insurance FAQ’s

How to Deal with State Farm Insurance for your Fire Damage Claim

Current News from State Farm

State Farm’s web site, in light of the recent wildfires in Northern California, features an emergency alert noting two points:
Wildfire survivors can have additional time to pay premiums
Wildfire survivors have three options for reaching out: their local agent, the web site, or a toll-free number

What Now? What does State Farm recommend after a fire in your home?

  • Find a safe place to stay:
  •  Contact your State Farm Insurance Agent to start the process of filing a claim – this includes saving all receipts, keeping a record of all purchases, and listening to your agent for recommendations on how to secure your property, and how to clean and/or restore salvageable items
  • Keep up with your finances – continue to make mortgage payments and car payments (even if these things are destroyed), as well as credit card payments – State Farm may pay the mortgage lender directly, but make sure the banks get paid first, and any leftover money goes toward rebuilding, repairing or repurchasing.
  • Recover possessions – remember that typically the policy is one of “replacement cost” so you’ll get the actual cash value (the depreciated value) now, and the difference between actual and replacement value once you’ve replaced the items.

Locating and Researching Contractors

State Farm’s site indicates that it is the homeowner’s responsibility to select a contractor to repair a damaged property. The company offers a Contractor Locator Service, and itemizes a three-step process,

  • Search up to 50 contractors in a 70-mile radius from your address or zip code (or search by contractor name)
  • Review the contractors’ profiles, services and warranties
  • Contact the contractors for estimates

Note that State Farm does not warrant or guarantee the performance of any given contractor, including the one you select, and the company specifically indicates that it has not reviewed the licenses or anything else about the contractors.

That said, it’s a good place to start. Surprisingly, there are only two general contractors listed on the Contractor Locator Service within 70 miles of Sonoma, CA: Valentine Builders in Penngrove, and MATCO, Inc. Construction & Restoration in Santa Rosa. But, there may be something wrong with the search algorithm, as performing the same contractor search from San Francisco, Napa and Santa Rosa, yields no participating contractors.

If the Contractor Locator Service is not available in the homeowner’s area, or if a search yields no results, a homeowner might visit social media sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, the local Better Business Bureau and more, to see reviews or lack of reviews there. Keep in mind that reviews, both positive and negative, are easy to manipulate, having friends or family write positive ones about a business, and negative ones about a competing business, so attempt to get unbiased referrals from multiple sources.

Another place to source contractors is the local association of homebuilders and/or remodelers.

After narrowing down the list of potential contractors:

  • check for current license, registration and insurance
  • compare estimates from three or more contractors
  • put everything in writing, including a contract with the contractor’s complete contact information, project timeline with corresponding payment schedule, and any permit requirements.

Red flags – signs that a contractor may be attempting to scam a homeowner

  • Pushy door-to-door sales after a wildfire or other disaster
  • Unsolicited phone calls after a wildfire or other disaster
  • Promises of discounts due to contractor’s leftover materials from a previous job
  • Promises of discounts for the homeowner referring friends or neighbors
  • Contractor requiring a large deposit
  • Contractor requiring case payments for the full amount
  • Contractor asking homeowner to get permits
  • Contractor reluctant to, or refusing to, provide local phone and/or other contact information

How Does State Farm define Fire Damage Coverage?

State Farm offers Homeowners Insurance, which it divides into three categories, weather, non-weather and sudden or accidental. Fire damage falls under the “weather” category. Weather includes storms, fire, wind, hail, lightning, freezing, weight of ice, snow or sleet.

What Happens During the Claim-Filing Process at State Farm?

State Farm outlines its claim-filing process as a process with four steps: Report, Review, Estimate & Repair, and Payment

  1. Report
    A homeowner can report, or file, a claim directly with the State Farm agent, or via a toll-free 800 number, the mobile app or online.
  2. Review
    State Farm will

    1. review the details of the homeowner’s claim
    2. request a detailed inventory of property damage, including photos, brand names and model numbers, age, price when purchased, place and date where purchased, and possibly other necessary information
    3. assess the damage
    4. offer an explanation of coverages and endorsements
    5. discuss the process moving forward, i.e. next steps, and
    6. provide advance payments, if necessary and applicable, for example, for emergency living expenses
  3. Estimate & Repair
    1. State Farm’s claims associate will work with the homeowner to estimate the repairs (at the same time, the homeowner’s contractor can also give an estimate)
    2. State Farm will review the estimate and authorize repairs
    3. The homeowner should keep all receipts for expenses for emergency (additional) living expenses, temporary repairs, and any other claim-related expenses
  4. Payment
    The homeowner will receive payments for authorized repairs and other expenses (less deductibles) – the payments can be made either directly to a bank account or sent in a check via mail, based on the terms of the policy.
  5. Resolution
    State Farm may need to work with at-fault parties to recover payments it makes – this process is called subrogation.

About State Farm

State Farm, #33 on the 2017 Fortune 400, handles nearly 39,000 claims each day and boasts nearly 20,000 agent offices. State Farm is the “good neighbor” founded in 1922 by George Jacob Mecherle, a retired farmer and insurance salesperson. State Farm claims to insure more cars and homes than any other insurance company in America. Its mission is to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams.

Finally, what to know and read ahead of “next time”, before the next loss or damage occurs

Familiarize yourself with your State Farm policy and its coverages. Be aware of what will be taken care of – and what won’t – if a loss occurs, and know what your responsibilities are.

State Farm recommends you keep an inventory of your possessions – item purchased, date, cost and description – and keep it updated. There are three methods of keeping this home inventory, which will prove to be an excellent way to expedite a fire (or other) insurance claim. There’s more than one method of keeping a home inventory, and State Farm suggests you keep more than one type.

  • Home Inventory List: this is a spreadsheet or a ready-to-go pre-populated checklist. Note the item description, including brand name, model, serial number, plus purchase price and purchase date.
  • Visual Inventory Record: this is a visual record of possessions, either a video walk-through of your home or a series of photographs of the items in your home, showing proof of ownership.
  • State Farm Homeindex is a free online tool that walks you through the process of taking inventory and allows you to share it with your State Farm agent. Homeindex combines a home inventory list with a visual record.

As long as you’re going to the trouble of documenting you may as well do it thoroughly. Go room-to-room, and include the basement, garage, attic, tool shed, guest house, etc. Add, where available, receipts, credit card statements, appraisals and any other documents related to the transaction. Update your home inventory periodically as you acquire or get rid of items.

Lastly, of course, don’t keep the only documentation on site at your home! It would be a shame to have the home inventory lost in the fire (or other damage). Keep a copy in a bank safe deposit box, in another secure location away from home, or somewhere on the cloud, easily retrievable from a public computer. For more information on the recent Tubbs and Nuns wildfires, contact a California wildfire claims attorney.

For tips on hiring a contractor, click here.

 

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