mentally replaying the night and the day, wishing I could close my eyes and wake up and have it all be a very realistic nightmare.
No one had been hurt and yes, the only thing lost were things, but my
house, my home was in total disarray and I no idea in the world how I was going to put it back to what it was.
Elsa stayed awake all night with me, purring on my chest, as if to reassure me everything was going to work out. I just wanted to get started on getting everything back the way it was.
When morning finally arrived, we packed up the cats, still in a cardboard box since the cat carriers had been in the garage and took them to the vet for boarding. I had called my boss to let him know what had happened and now, calling my home answering machine, there were several messages from him and a co-worker, telling me to call work as soon as possible.
The co-worker, as fate would have it, had recently had a fire in her own home. Have you met with your insurance company yet?”
“No, we are heading over to the house. They are going to meet me there.”
“Don’t tell them anything. Don’t agree to anything and for God’s sake don’t sign anything! I am sending over my public adjuster. He will be there within the hour.”
I had never heard of public adjusters. I am going to guess most people haven’t unless they had a home disaster. Simply put, public adjusters negotiate with your insurance company to make sure you get everything that your insurance policy will allow. They are not lawyers. They simply know the ins
and outs of how the whole claim process works. They are not free. They take a percentage of the total claim at the end, but they tell you that they will get you more than you could get on your own.
I wasn’t sure I needed one. I had insurance. They would just fix everything and I would get back to my life as soon as possible, right?
Besides, maybe some things were salvageable. I had some cds in my truck that I thought may have survived. Maybe my 15 year collection of Christmas ornaments was still there.
Turning down my street, we were met by approximately 30 people all standing in my yard. I suddenly knew what being followed by paparazzi was like. We pulled up and they all stared at us, but no one approached us.
My neighbor came out from next door and hustled us into his living room.
“They are all public adjusters,” he explained. “They have been waiting all morning. Vultures, all of them! Why would you need them? Your insurance company will take care of you.”
I was more confused than ever.
Looking at the garage, it was worse than anything I had remembered from the night before. The truck was unrecognizable. Almost everything in the garage was unrecognizable. We later found one
item, a shovel, the handle burned, but the metal part still intact. I kept it, just because it was the only thing left.
We went into the house. The wall of the living room and the ceiling had huge holes where the firemen had used their axes to make sure there was no fire in the walls. The entire house smelled terrible.
My insurance company finally arrived. I had found out the night before that the truck was not covered by the home insurance policy. It was covered by the auto insurance policy. I had two different insurance companies and I was about to have two different experiences.
The public adjuster my co-worker had recommended also arrived. We spoke in hushed tones in the backyard while the insurance people gave us the evil eye.
“They are going to try to rush you into getting everything done quickly and they are only going to fix whatever they absolutely have to. They are going to have you sign paperwork agreeing to things right now that you won’t be able to take back,” the public adjusters told me. “Do you really want to make decisions now?”
With no sleep and feeling like I was in some kind of haze, no I did not want to sign anything. I barely felt like I could put one foot in front of another. But didn’t I want things put back together quickly?
The insurance company had sent over a woman, who spoke quietly to me and assured me that if I just signed some paperwork, they would get started cleaning things up. Everything would be fine.
She almost had me. If she had been the only one there, I would have believed that they had my best interests in mind and that it did not make sense to hire someone to help me get what they were already going to give me.
But then I heard the guy who had been assigned to actually work the claim. He was standing in the living room, taking notes with his assistant. He was standing in front of the gaping hole between my living room and the garage, right under the gaping hole in the ceiling and he said the words that made my decision for me:
“We can just patch this. No need for all new dry wall.”
My house. My first house that I had spent years in. Painted, made the yard nice. Put up pictures, made a home, now had a gaping hole in the living room and the ceiling and they were going to patch it. Not replace it. Not make it like it had been. THEY WERE GOING TO PATCH IT.
It was decided. I turned to the nice talking insurance lady and said, “I won’t be signing anything with you today. I am going to employ the services of a public adjuster.”
Next up. My policy says what?????