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Total Loss: The Brewer Family

Ron Reitz and Quality Claims Management Help the Brewer Family Rebuild their Rancho Bernardo Home.

In 2007, Robert Brewer and his wife Man-Ling suffered a total loss to their house in Rancho Bernardo as a result of the wildfires which swept through the area. They had been living there since 2000. The fire totally destroyed all their belongings, as well as their home.

The Brewer house - destroyed by wildfire.
Robert and Man-Ling Brewer’s house was destroyed in the wildfires that swept through San Diego County in October 2007.

The Brewers were insured by USAA. At first, immediately after the fire, the insurance company was very helpful and cooperative. According to Mr. Brewer, USAA paid the Brewers what they felt they were owed for the loss of their possessions. USAA gave them the full replacement value for their destroyed possessions and also paid for their emergency living expenses until they could find a new place to live.

However, when it came time to rebuild, the Brewers and the insurance company did not agree about how much they were entitled to. The Brewers had engaged the services of a very well-respected architect and local builder to rebuild their home as it had been before the fire. However, as soon as they started the design and reconstruction process, they realized that the amount of money paid by the insurer was not going to be enough to truly rebuild their home the way it was prior to the loss.

Lessons Learned:

According to Robert and Man-Ling, these are some of the lessons they learned from their experience:

1. Make sure your home is properly insured. Not only do you need to have enough insurance, it needs to be the right kind of policy that will guarantee that your home will be rebuilt to its current condition - including all upgrades and remodels.

2. This means making sure that your insurance policy is updated regularly to reflect changing rebuilding costs and codes.

3. It is important to do a yearly inventory of what you own inside the home and garage - that indicates when and where you obtained your possessions - including gifts - as well as how much it cost and what it is worth. If possible document your possessions using photos and/or video.

4. If you feel that your insurance company is not playing straight with you - if they are pushing you to make quick decisions or not respecting your feelings or feedback - you should consult and find a public claims adjuster. Local non-profit and community support groups can often provide excellent references to ensure you find a trustworthy and effective representative to help you.

After the fire, the Brewers just wanted to rebuild their home the way it had been, but they faced several major challenges. Although the Brewers did not have the original blueprints, they were able to work from an original floor plan that their realtor had in her possession. They also discovered that due to changes in building codes, they would need to make some improvements and changes to the original construction. This substantially increased the costs of the rebuilding.

Once the actual numbers for rebuilding started coming in, the Brewers realized that they were underinsured – despite their increased limits.

At first, the Brewers went back to the insurance company and tried to negotiate their claim themselves, but soon realized they needed help. Using referrals from several local fire victim help groups for Public Insurance Claims Adjusters, they contacted Ron Reitz of Quality Claims Management. After meeting and discussing their situation, the Brewers engaged Quality Claims to create a detailed scope of loss for them.

Ron and his team came in with a special computer program that enabled them to go room by room through the house and compared the true costs of rebuilding to the insurance company’s estimate. By using this data, Ron and his team developed a detailed and comprehensive “Scope of Loss” document that proved that the Brewers were justified in receiving more money for rebuilding than was originally offered by the Insurance Company.

Ron took over the negotiations with the insurance company, thus freeing Robert and his wife to deal with the other monumental challenges of rebuilding their lives, including making a living.

Over the next few months, Ron handled the various back and forth negotiations with the insurance company and was able to successfully obtain the full amount of money needed for the Brewers to rebuild their home. Ron was able to get the Brewers almost $200,000 more than they had originally been offered.

“Ron was great,” said Robert Brewer. “He and his team were very professional and efficient, had all the tools and knew just what needed to be done.”

“We were overwhelmed by all the other aspects of our home and possessions being destroyed by fire and we didn’t want to lose sleep trying to negotiate with the insurance company,” added Man-Ling. “We were able to let Ron and his team take over and they delivered.”

In January 2009, Man-Ling and Robert Brewer completed the rebuilding of their home and are now living in their rebuilt home. “Thank you, Quality Claims Management.”

In January 2009, the rebuilding of their Rancho Bernardo home was completed and Robert and Man-Ling Brewer were able to move back in.


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