The days following a house fire are often traumatic for the homeowner and their family members. Everything they’ve amassed over they years, including special mementos and treasured heirlooms, is damaged or destroyed. During this time, dealing with the insurance company adds another layer of stress to the situation.

There are several things that you should remember during this trying time. One of the most important is that you shouldn’t throw anything away. Your insurance carrier will want to see proof of the financial impact of the fire. Even if things only suffered smoke damage, you should still keep them so they adjuster can review them.

You’ll need to contact the insurance company right away after the fire. Your coverage may include provisions for living expenses and accommodations, if you’re unable to live in the home because of the damage from the fire or smoke. Keep receipts for anything that you purchase or any expense that you cover so you can turn them over to the insurance company for reimbursement or to count against any advance that the company provides you against your claim.

As the homeowner, you have a duty to mitigate the damages. This means that you’ll need to secure the property as quickly as possible so that no additional damage occurs to it. Boarding up the home, covering up holes and moving items within or around the home may be beneficial.

You have paid your insurance premiums and you have specific rights as the insured individual. Don’t allow the insurance company to bully you into accepting lowball offers. You can opt to work with an attorney regarding these matters to ensure that your interests are protected.