For those who suffered property damage from the Grouse Complex wildfires, the burden of dealing with an insurance claim in the midst of tragic loss can be overwhelming to digest.
But a public adjuster firm has stepped forward offering Central Okanagan residents a unique resource of support for those seeking claim process settlements.
Greenspan Adjusters International Inc. hosted a workshop on Sept. 20, at the Delta Grand Okanagan to discuss the insurance claim process and the role it can play on behalf of their clients.
A second workshop at the same location is planned for Sept. 27.
Steve Severaid, president of Greenspan Adjusters, said his firm has helped thousands of policyholders, specifically those impacted by wildfires throughout western North America, to recover bigger, better and faster insurance settlements, acting as a single point of contact between clients and insurance adjusters.
Severaid said the California-based company, with a 77-year track record, has begun to expand into the B.C. market over the last five years due to the propensity of summer wildfires.
“We have an office in Seattle and it just seemed like a natural next step to move farther north,” he said.
He said that public adjusters, are not lawyers or have power of attorney to settle claims, but rather serve as an advisor to clients on all aspects of an insurance settlement and communication go-between with insurance adjusters.
“We know what insurance adjusters want and the format they want it in, and while we speak for our clients nothing is done from our end without them signing off on it first,” he said.
“It is a bad news, good news situation for people who have lost everything in a wildfire. The bad news it is one of the lowest moments of your life, and the good news is our people can take you by the hand on the journey of recovery and help you get through it.”
He cited two common problems with home loss insurance claims, one being having a “real world cost estimate” on the cost to replace your home to avoid being caught between the insurance replacement settlement and a contractor saying the house can’t be built at that cost in today’s market.
“That is a common problem and you can reach a standstill, not sure where to turn to next,” he said.
The second issue revolves around the replacement of lost items in a home, a tedious and sometimes frustrating inventory listing exercise that often results in policyholders leaving thousands of dollars on the table that otherwise could have been claimed.
“It’s not the insurance company’s fault as they can only deal with what you give them,” he said.
He says the big inventory items come easy but when considering everything you own in a home, it is an arduous task to account for all of that with an individual price value.
“People start out that process with good intentions but it becomes harder and harder to stick with it…you find excuses to put it off from week to week, then six months have gone by, then eight months and people toss up their arms in frustration at the process.
“The end result is the inventory submitted to the insurance company is incomplete, and you could well be leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table. We work with our clients to get them through that process and put everything we can find on paper, from the salt and pepper shaker to pens and pencil clips, the small stuff replacement costs that add up.”
Another common issue, he adds, is undervaluing your own belongings, not taking into account the higher replacement price in today’s dollars compared to when you bought it.
Severaid said his firm may not be a perfect fit or necessary for every property owner’s needs who was impacted by the recent wildfires, but he hopes the workshops can also serve to help educate and provide knowledge of the insurance claim process.
“We are trying to raise the profile of our business, but also to help educate and inform people so when they leave they can say I get this or understand this better,” he said.
He offered two points of advice for all home insurance holders – do a self-narrated walk-through of your home and closets on video for future reference, and look over your insurance policy and be reassured your property value is adequately covered in replacement costs before disaster ever strikes.
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video of your home and its contents is probably worth a lot more than a thousand words. Just keep a record of it in ‘the cloud’ or somewhere outside of your house.”