Wildfires have become increasingly severe in British Columbia in recent years, and for the past two summers the province has been placed under a state of emergency. Thousands of homes, vehicles and personal possessions have been destroyed or damaged, and many insurance claims from last year remain unresolved.
If you are one of those who has been affected by wildfire, we understand how traumatic the experience can be. Having to be evacuated from your home is extremely scary, as you must up and leave everything you own. It can also be expensive, particularly if you need to pay for accommodation until you are allowed to return home.
Once you are permitted to go back to your property, you may find that it has suffered fire damage, or even been burned to the ground, along with everything in it. Of course, this will be incredibly upsetting, and the daunting prospect of having to rebuild your life will begin.
Wildfire insurance claims British Columbia
First, however, you will need to make a wildfire insurance claim. There is a popular myth that insurance policies do not cover wildfire because it is an ‘act of god’. But this is not true! Most home and business insurance policies cover wildfire damage, although the terms and conditions of each will vary. You may also have to pay a deductible, depending on your type of policy and the extent of damage involved.
Therefore if you have suffered any kind of loss because of wildfire, you need to check your insurance policy to see what is covered. Typically, you will be able to recover the following costs, so long as they are reasonable and within any limit set by your insurance policy –
- The cost of alternative living accommodation
- Everyday living expenses
- The cost of returning your home and its contents to pre-fire market value, and/or
- The cost of replacing your home and its contents
If your vehicle has been damaged or destroyed by wildfire, then you may also be able to make an ICBC claim, although this option is usually only open to those with comprehensive coverage.
Tips for making a wildfire insurance claim
When making a wildfire insurance claim, you need to collect as much evidence as possible to prove your losses.
When you return to your home, do not touch anything until your insurance adjuster has visited the property. Take photos and make a list of everything that has been damaged or destroyed in each room. If you have any receipts or paperwork (such as bank statements) that proves how much each item cost, dig them out.
Also remember to keep a record of any expenses you have incurred as a result of the wildfire. For example, if you were evacuated from your home and had to dine out every night, keep the receipts – even if it was just a sandwich and a bottle of water. Or maybe you had to board your dog or buy medication.
You might not be able to recover all your expenses, but you will stand a greater chance of recuperating your losses if you are able to provide evidence.
Lawyers for wildfire insurance claims British Columbia
The aftermath of a wildfire is almost always devastating for those involved, and having to deal with a wildfire insurance claim will only add to the burden. To alleviate the stress, you can ask an insurance lawyer to manage the entire claims process on your behalf.
Alternatively, if part or all of your claim is denied, you may wish to seek legal advice. An insurance lawyer can help you understand why your claim failed and what options are available to you. If the insurance company has acted in bad faith, or has wrongly denied your claim, an insurance lawyer can use their skill and expertise to argue your case, ensuring you recover the correct amount.
If you would like to speak to an insurance lawyer about a wildfire insurance claim, please do not hesitate to contact us at North Shore Law LLP.