There are things that Maui wildfire survivors can do right now to help make the recovery process easier. Once you and your loved ones are out of imminent danger, you should immediately contact your insurance company, make a plan for housing, track all expenses and insurance interactions, and prepare an inventory of your losses.
- Contact your insurance. If you have insurance, call your broker, and ask to get a copy of your policy and your declarations page. These documents will summarize your property and coverage limits. If you have internet access, it may be helpful to request these documents be sent by e-mail. In the meantime, ask your broker how much coverage you have to rebuild your home, replace the contents, and pay for Additional Living Expenses (“ALE”).
- Make a housing plan. Additional Living Expenses (ALE) coverage is used to pay for housing after you lose your home. ALE typically lasts for 24 months, or until the coverage runs out, whichever comes first. It’s important to manage this money carefully, because once your coverage runs out, that’s it. Sometimes a survivor is so happy to find a nice replacement home that they overlook the cost of rent and run through the ALE within 14 months and before their new home is rebuilt. Make sure to plan ahead so this doesn’t happen to you.
- Track all your expenses. When you lose your home, you spend money on things you wouldn’t need if you still had your house. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to keep track of everything. Simply throw your receipts in a shoebox — receipts for eating out, extra mileage and gas costs, etc. Even if your insurance won’t cover the costs, the utility company might. Better yet, use a debit or credit card to make purchases if you can. Receipts can fade with time, but a digital record will last. Remember – every receipt you save could put money back in your pocket!
- Document every insurance interaction. Plan to spend a lot of time on the phone with your insurance company. It is essential that you document everything including the date, time, and person you spoke with. Make sure to note what the adjuster tells you and request that they follow up your conversations with an email. Additionally, whenever you speak with your adjuster, send an email confirming the details of your conversation, especially when discussing your coverage, exclusions, limits, and policy benefits. Emails are your best protection as they go straight into the adjuster’s “claims diary.” I
- Prepare an inventory. Preparing a Personal Property Inventory (PPI) can be a daunting task, especially as you navigate your loss and the painful feelings that arise. However, many of our clients report feeling better after they complete the inventory. Enlist the help of a supportive friend or relative and try breaking the list down into smaller chunks – take it one room at a time. If that’s too much, start with something even smaller, like a closet, cupboard, or shed. Making a list of everything you lost in the fire while your memory is fresh will save you time and frustration later. The list should include big items like TVs, furniture, and artwork, as well as small ordinary things like kitchen utensils, toiletries, linens, and other housewares. You can write things down by hand or use a form from the internet. A complete PPI can put more money in your pocket, whether from insurance or the utility company. It’s hard now, but you’ll thank yourself later.