When you, your family, your property, or your business experience loss as a result of a wildfire, you might feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. Ahead, we’ll discuss what post-wildfire actions you should take so you can have guidance in this turbulent time.
Contact Your Insurance Company
If you experienced either personal property loss, such as a vehicle, loss of your home, or loss of your business, your insurance policy might cover some or all of the damage. It is important to contact your insurer as soon as you can and make a claim. Once you have filed a claim, your insurance company will assign you a claims adjuster to investigate your damages and assess your loss.
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Determine If You are Eligible for FEMA Benefits
Typically, when a wildfire occurs, the president will issue a federal disaster declaration. A federal disaster declaration activates the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Through FEMA, you might be eligible for financial assistance. To be eligible for financial assistance, you must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien. However, if you are undocumented, but your child is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien, you can make an application in your child’s name.
What types of benefits are available?
There are different types of FEMA benefits available, depending on the nature of your loss.
You may be eligible for repair assistance to reimburse you for labor and the cost of materials to repair disaster-related damage to your home. If your home was completely destroyed, you may be eligible for financial assistance to replace your home that was destroyed in the disaster. If you have incurred medical or funeral damages because you or a loved one suffered personal injury, you may be eligible for other needs assistance.
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Do I have to pay back FEMA assistance?
Generally, no, as long as the FEMA assistance was used for the purposes stated in the FEMA award letter that you will receive with your benefits. If the FEMA benefits were not used for this purpose, you may have to pay back any benefits received.
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How Do I Apply for FEMA Assistance?
You may apply for FEMA benefits through disasterassistance.gov. However, you can also apply through the FEMA mobile app or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362.
Double-Check That You Have All Your Important Documents and Replace What You Do Not Have
Important documents might be necessary to obtain assistance after a wildfire. It is crucial to ensure you are not missing any documents and to replace any that you need. Check that you have your:
- Driver’s License and/or Identification Card;
- Auto Registration;
- Property Titles and Deeds;
- Insurance Policies;
- Military Discharge Papers;
- Citizenship Papers;
- Social Security Cards;
Create a Home or Business Inventory
A home or business inventory is a list of the items that you lost as a result of the wildfire, such as furniture, appliances, vehicles, tools, et cetera. Some people have already created inventories of the items they own before a wildfire in case of emergency. If you did not have a home or business inventory prior to the wildfire, you should create one in order to evaluate your losses. Additionally, you should keep receipts of anything that you purchase to replace what was lost, in case your insurance adjuster and/or attorney need them to help evaluate your claim.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Witnessing and living through a wildfire is a profoundly traumatic event that can trigger emotional turmoil. It’s essential to remain vigilant for signs that you or your loved ones may require assistance, such as experiencing frequent tearfulness, struggling with insomnia, overwhelming nervousness, and/or a noticeable loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities. During times of crisis, prioritizing your mental well-being may pose a challenge, yet it remains crucial. Practice self-compassion, both for yourself and your loved ones, as you navigate the path to recovery. Additionally, it may be beneficial to explore your emotions and thoughts with a therapist in order to process your feelings after the loss.
Contact an Attorney
Many wildfires are not accidental, and those accountable for starting these fires should be held responsible. If you and your loved one have endured smoke inhalation, burns, the loss of your home, or other damages, it is crucial to reach out to an attorney who can assist you in pursuing justice and the rightful compensation you deserve. The attorneys at Arias Sanguinetti are skilled professionals who will fight for you. Your consultation is free, there is no obligation to sign with us, and you pay no fees unless we win.