Tennessee Insurance Dispute Lawyers Handling Wildfire Damage

Protecting policyholders throughout the Southeast and Midwest when natural disasters strike

Wildfires don’t happen often, but when they do, it’s likely they’ll completely destroy your property and everything inside. As drought becomes more common in the central part of the country, it’s likely we’ll see more wildfires as the years go by.

At McWherter Scott & Bobbitt, our Tennessee-based insurance dispute lawyers help policyholders when their structures are destroyed by natural disasters. We work to obtain coverage for temporary lodging until your home or office can be rebuilt. If rebuilding is not feasible, we work to negotiate a just settlement for the value of your property. Our lawyers also work to compensate you for the damage to the contents of your home and buildings and for any related damages such as business interruption losses.


Considerable Legal Skills
"I also want to share with you that because of the completeness of your preparation, your considerable legal skills and your force of character(s), I have no doubt that had we found it necessary to go to trial – we would have won the day."

Mary McNally

Considerable Legal Skills
"I also want to share with you that because of the completeness of your preparation, your considerable legal skills and your force of character(s), I have no doubt that had we found it necessary to go to trial – we would have won the day."

Mary McNally

Common insurance coverage questions

  • What immediate steps should you take after a wildfire? Local and federal officials should help guide you immediately after a wildfire. Inspectors and owners need to review whether they should turn off any electricity or water and what other safety precautions are necessary.
  • Is your property covered? Wildfires may not be covered by your standard homeowners’ or commercial property insurance policy. Owners need to review this risk with their insurance agent when buying their other property coverages. The insurance carrier may either allow for an endorsement to cover wildfire damage or for a separate wildfire insurance policy.
  • Should you rebuild or move? The initial decision to make is whether your home, office buildings, apartments, restaurants, or other structures can be saved. While repairing the structure is usually not practical, it may be possible to rebuild the property from scratch.
  • What temporary payments are authorized? Whether you move or rebuild, families and workers will need to find temporary living and work arrangements until the rebuild takes place or until they can buy a new place.. Insurance companies should, generally, advance these sums while our Tennessee wildfire lawyers work to resolve the rest of your claim.
  • What is the value of your contents? Insurance companies may argue that you should be paid less than is owed for your contents and other possessions. Our lawyers fight to get you the value that is owed under your insurance policy.
  • What if the insurance company denies your claim? Our lawyers fight to hold the insurance company to its duty to negotiate in good faith. We contest any unlawful claims of exclusions or any efforts to wrongfully limit your claim.

In addition, for those companies or organizations with business interruption insurance, we work to properly assess and value all your losses including:

  • Lost profits, lost revenue, and lost rentals
  • Fixed expenses such as mortgages and utility expenses
  • Restoration of your information technology services
  • Payment to employees and staff while you rebuild or move

We also review all other policies that may provide coverage such as:

  • Umbrella policies
  • Excess coverage policies
  • Comprehensive insurance policies

Wildfire debris and smoke damage

Wildfires can cause all sorts of secondary damage such as smoke damage, char and ash, water damage as the firefighters try to extinguish the fire, and burning. The damage can affect the walls of your buildings, the HVAC system, and all your contents and possessions.

When the Gatlinburg fires happened, even those whose homes and businesses were untouched by the fires could have significant damage from the smoke and other wildfire debris. Yet many policyholders faced pushback and even denials when they tried to recoup losses because of smoke and wildfire debris damage, especially if the building was untouched by actual flames.

But smoke and wildfire debris can get into places in a building that aren’t quite visible and make that building unsafe for living or working. If your policy covers fire, and you wish to bring a claim for fire-related damage such as smoke and wildfire debris damage, there are a few things you can do to protect your home or business:

  • Document everything. Take as many pictures as you can of the damage done to the building and its contents. If, however, the property may be structurally unsound, or if there is a chance that the air could be contaminated and unsafe to breathe, do not go into the building.
  • Ask for help from emergency services. Your local law enforcement and fire departments can help you keep your property secure. Not only does your insurer want proof that your belongings were damaged; you want to ensure that anything valuable within your home is protected.
  • Ask your insurance carrier to hire a Certified Industrial Hygienist to test your home or business for remnants of smoke or other wildfire contaminants. As a policyholder, you should want to have those tests performed, as they may be the only way to prove just how extensive the damage is. The CIH will take surface samples, but may take air samples as well.
  • Work with a professional cleaning crew. You do not want to attempt to clean your own home if it has sustained damage for smoke or wildfire debris. We recommended getting a number of estimates before choosing one company. Before you start cleaning, however, contact your insurance carrier.
  • Review your claim. If your policy states that your property is to be returned to its pre-loss condition, then your insurer should pay for the costs associated with doing so. You may need to pay out-of-pocket for some costs, so you might want to review your policy with your agent. If it looks as though they may deny your claim, you might want to review it with your lawyer instead.

Many standard insurance policies cover fire damage, but that does not mean your insurer will want to pay. If you believe that your insurance dispute is an act of bad faith by your insurer, you should seek legal counsel immediately.

Read More: The 2017 California Devastation and the Insurance Claim Fight

Strong insurance advocacy for Tennessee wildfire and smoke damage victims

At McWherter Scott & Bobbitt, we understand how important it is to move after a wildfire has destroyed your home, your business, your dreams. We work to have your site inspected quickly, and the damages ascertained. We fight to get you temporary funding so you have a place to live. Our lawyers professionally guide you through each stage of the insurance claim process so that you’re informed and so that you get the results for which you bargained. For immediate help – call 731.664.1340 or fill out our contact form. to schedule an appointment. Our attorneys are licensed in Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri.