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Guardian Adjusting Blog
Tips and information on all types of property damage claims.


Imperceptible Damage

Rick Tapanes - Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hidden Property Damage

Property damage is not always immediately discernable, especially to the untrained eye. The effects of some damage will continue well after the initial loss if not identified and remedied. When suffering property damage, every precaution should be taken to ensure that all the damage has been found and addressed.

Documenting all the damage your property has suffered is essential in receiving a favorable settlemetn. Damage that is found after a claim has been resolved will likely be disputed by the insurance company, often with a claim that the damage is due to regular wear and unrelated to the original loss. Bringing in your own property inspector is the best way to ensure that no damage goes unnoticed and unpaid.

Smoke and Ash

Smoke and ash that result from a building fire could continue to affect the property long after the fire has been extinguished. Even a home that has suffered very little damage from a fire may suffer from the long-lasting effects of smoke and ash. Often this damage is not readily visible. Smoke particles tend to remain in the air conditioning and heating systems. Aside from being carcinogenic, these particles can contribute to many ailments including childhood asthma. It is in your best interest to find the smoke and ash damage before your insurance company has settled your claim.

Mold and Rot

Water damage has the greatest potential of long-lasting effects on your property and your health. Water damage can often lead to mold. This is especially true if the property is not completely dried after the incident. Moisture in floors, carpeting, walls and furniture that is not found and removed can turn to mold in a short time. If left longer, mold will grow and spread. Severe mold can sometimes lead to irreversible health conditions while making a property uninhabitable. The mold may not make itself know for months after the initial damage. By that time, it has spread from its hiding places and will be much more difficult to handle.

Public Adjusters Can Help

A public insurance adjuster is your advocate in the face of property damage. They are trained to inspect a damaged property and uncover damage that was not caught initially (or intentionally overlooked by the insurance company). A good public adjuster knows where to look for smoke, ash, water and other damage that would otherwise go undocumented and claimed. Ideally, you should establish a relationship with a good public adjuster before a loss has occurred. In the event of property damage, your public adjuster will be ready to assist you in the claim process.

At Guardian Adjusting Services, we take pride in performing thorough property inspections that uncover all the damage that has occurred. In this way, we can help maximize our clients’ insurance settlements and save them the headache of lingering property damage. Call us to learn how we can help.

Insurance Fraud

Rick Tapanes - Monday, December 28, 2015

Insurance Fraud Costs Insurers and the Insured

According to the FBI, insurance fraud is estimated to be over $40 billion dollars each year. That number does not include health insurance fraud. Property insurance fraud accounts for about $32 billion of that. Five to ten percent of all insurance claims paid are fraudulent and one third of insurance companies say that number is closer to 20% for them. According to these estimates, insurance fraud costs the average American family anywhere from $400 to $700 every year.

Insurance Fraud Takes Many Forms

Fraudulent insurance claims can range anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars. Property insurance claims can take many forms. Below are some of the most common insurance fraud schemes insurance companies deal with.

  • Intentional damaging of property to make an insurance claim on it.
  • Overestimating the costs of lost or damaged property on an insurance claim.
  • Overstating the extent of damages on an insurance claim.
  • Staging a fake robbery to file a claim on stolen property.
  • Asking a repair company to inflate their bill to cover the insurance deductible.
  • Forging evidence like repair bills in support of a property damage claim.

Insurance Fraud Red Flags

Insurance companies now use computer software that analyses statistics to red flag claims that need to be investigated further. Insurance adjusters are also trained to identify these red flags that often point to fraudulent claims. Here are just some of the behaviors and circumstances that may point to a suspicious claim.

  • Absence of the insured at the time that an incident occurs. If there is no good reason why the entire family and the pets were out of the house when it burned down, the insurance company will investigate further.
  • The insured is recently divorced or separated. This is not unusual but combined with other factors it may cause the insurance company to dig deeper.
  • Serious financial difficulties on the part of the insured. Recent foreclosure or bankruptcy may be cause for further investigation of the claim.
  • The insured pushes for a quick settlement. Some people just want to get their property fixed quickly, but if the insured is particularly adamant about speeding up the process to get their money, it may warrant scrutiny.
  • An unusual amount of familiarity with insurance terms and processes on the part of the insured.
  • Claims that are filed shortly after insurance coverage begins or is increased.
  • The damaged or destroyed property was up for sale or very recently purchased.

The Law in Florida

In Florida insurance fraud is a felony. The severity of the crime is directly tied to the amount of the fraudulent claim or claims. Fraud in excess of $100,000 is a first degree felony and a defendant could face jail time as well as fines. A recent, extreme Florida case involved a ring of 22 people that hit insurance companies for $7.6 million over nine years. Some members of the ring acted as recruiters that would approach homeowners that might be willing to cooperate in the schemes. Homes and other properties were intentionally flooded or set on fire and the fraud ring would receive 20% to 30% of the settlement. The ring leader is facing 30 years in prison for arson, forgery, grand theft and racketeering.

Insurance fraud is a crime that affects anyone that buys insurance. Luckily it is taken seriously by law enforcement and efforts continue to curb the costs to insurance companies and society as a whole.

After a Fire

Rick Tapanes - Friday, July 24, 2015

After a Fire Safety Is the First Concern

Last month we talked about how to be prepared in the event of a fire and what to do if you are caught in a fire. This article will cover some tips on what to do after a fire has hit your home. A fire can be a disorienting, frightening and even traumatic experience. It is important after a fire to keep a cool head and not to make any mistakes. Rebuilding will come later, but immediately after a fire your first concern should be to keep yourself and your family safe.

The first rule after you have gotten yourself and anyone else out of a burning building is not to go back in. Don't assume that a home is safe to reenter after a fire has been put out. Allow the authorities to inspect the building and determine when it is safe. In some cases, if the fire and damage to the structure are severe enough, the building may never be safe again.

Make sure to contact family members and friends to let them know what has happened and where things stand. If you are a tenant, a call to your landlord is also in order. Talk to the fire authorities about how to obtain a copy of the fire report that will be filled out. Your insurance company will need that. Next, call Guardian Adjusting to have an expert public adjuster come to your side and help you with the upcoming insurance claim process. Finally, contact your insurance company and report the fire to them. Some homeowner's insurance policies provide emergency funds for living expenses and lodging, and you may need those right away.

If the house is deemed safe to enter, the next step is to secure the house. You might need the help of a contractor to board up windows, and doors and well as make temporary fixes to insure that no one unwanted will enter the building. Looters can be a real issue in homes that have been damaged and are empty of occupants after a fire. Understand your homeowner's insurance policy as many make it your responsibility to keep the home safe while it waits to be repaired.

How Your Public Adjuster Will Help

Your public adjuster from Guardian Adjusting will help you get your life back to normal and act as the middle man between you and your insurance company, insuring that you get the maximum settlement owed to you to get your home repaired quickly. The public adjuster will perform their own thorough inspection of your property to make sure that all of the damage is properly documented and reported. In addition, your public adjuster can assist in quickly securing the materials and repairs your home will be needing. In short, a good public adjuster will help you get get your life back in order as quickly as possible.

The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting have decades of combined experience handling fire damage claims in South Florida. Contact us today to meet one of our adjusters and know that they will be there, ready to help, when the time comes.

Before and During a Fire

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fire Safety Tips That Can Save Lives

It is not just the flames that can kill in a fire. Just as dangerous, or even more so, are the smoke and heat. What makes fires even more dangerous is how quickly they can spread and get out of control. In just thirty seconds a single flame can spread to engulf an entire room. In a minute or two that room will be filled with thick black smoke, making it difficult, or even impossible, to breath or see. The temperature can get as hot as 600 degrees. At that temperature clothing will melt on to skin and the air will scorch lungs if breathed in. After five minutes, flashover can occur. This is when it gets so hot that everything not already burning ignites all at once.

Fire Escape Plans Save Lives

As you can see, all of this can happen very quickly. There is no time to rescue valuables, only to get out and help others to get out. A fire escape plan can literally save lives. Without one there will be panic, confusion and potentially deadly decisions. Take some time to prepare a plan to get your family out of the house if a fire occurs. The plan should be practiced a couple of times a year so it that could be adjusted if necessary and so that it stays fresh in everyone's mind. Make sure to cover these points when designing your escape plan:

  • Identify at least two exits out of every room. Often this will be a door and a window.
  • Check the house for any stuck windows or doors.
  • Insure that security bars in windows and doors have a quick release and that everyone in the home understands how to use them.
  • Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark.
  • Designate a meeting place outside of the home.
  • Test fire alarms monthly. Dual sensor fire alarms that detect both smoke and heat are best.
  • Check fire extinguishers monthly.
  • Clean out storage areas of flammable materials and accumulated trash like newspapers and old magazines.

Know How to React in a Fire

When a fire breaks, quickly evaluate if it can be contained. Have someone call 911 while another person tries to control the fire. If it starts to get out of control, it's time to leave the home. Put your fire escape plan into place. If you can reach others, help them get out immediately. If they cannot be reached get yourself out and call 911. Let the dispatcher know if there is anyone in the house and where in the house they are. When firefighters arrive, advise them if there is anyone still inside, including pets.

If you find yourself in a building that is on fire, try to keep as calm as possible. Panicking can lead to serious, possibly deadly mistakes. Evaluate your situation and decide on the best escape route. If you encounter heavy smoke, drop to the floor and crawl to the exit. The heavy smoke produced in a fire contains poisonous gases that can cause you to pass out. Smoke rises, so the most likely place to find breathable air is close to the ground. Check door handles before opening any interior doors. If the handle is hot, opening the door will probably let flames and smoke into the room you are in.

Christmas Tree Fires and Preparedness

Rick Tapanes - Friday, December 19, 2014

The holiday season is here! This is the time when families get together to cherish the holiday spirit and what better way than decorating the family Christmas tree. Here, in the U.S., it is tradition, and putting up a Christmas tree every December helps to keep the holiday spirit alive.

Did you know there are over 230 fires associated with Christmas trees every year? A Christmas tree can bring much happiness and joy to your home, but it can also be a potential fire risk. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas tree fires are a major cause of personal injury and property damage every holiday season.

Here are some Facts

  • For the past 3 years, U.S. fire departments put out an average of 230 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees. These fires cause an average of 6 deaths, 22 injuries, and well over $20 million annually in property damage.
  • Electrical problems were factors in one-third (32%) of home Christmas tree structure fires.

Four Rules to Christmas Fire Prevention 

  • Always choose a manufacturer certified tree that is fire retardant
  • Make sure you trees needles DO NOT easily fall off

Placing the tree

  • For safety, keep your tree opposite from exits
  • Secure your tree furthest from any heat source such as fireplace, heat vents/lights, radiators, candles, space heaters.

Lighting the tree

  • Indoor tree requires indoor lighting.
  • Worn or torn light cables must be replaced for new ones.
  • Candles should not be places on or near your tree
  • Unplug your Christmas tree lights before leaving your home.

Post Christmas

  • Throw out your Christmas tree when it begins dropping needles. Trees tend to drop plenty of dried needles which are a fire danger. Christmas trees should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.
  • Check with your local community to find out how to recycle. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

Space Heater and Christmas Tree

It is really not the best combination out there!

About one-third of all winter house fires are caused by space heaters. They are also involved in 80 percent of all winter heating related fire deaths.

Tips for electric space heater safety:

  • Maintain a four-foot tree free zone around space heaters.
  • Never leave a space heater on when absent or asleep.
  • Make sure your unit has no broken or malfunctioning parts.
  • Your unit should always be on a flat, solid surface.
  • Use only a unit with an automatic shut-off so that it shuts off if knocked over.
  • Never use extension cords.

Tips for Fuel burning space heaters:

  • Use only the fuel that the manufacturer specifies and the proper grade if the fuel is liquid.
  • Refuel the unit only outside or in a well-ventilated area.
  • Keep a window open when the unit is in operation.
  • Only use newly manufactured gas space heaters. If your old unit doesn’t have a mechanism that shuts it off when it detects low ambient oxygen, replace it.

Follow these tips for a safe holiday season, and visit this blog for more information throughout the year. In the face of serious property damage, turn to Guardian Adjusting to get your property repaired and your life back on track. Call us today and be ready for any eventuality the future may bring.

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