Damage to your car from a fire is covered by different types of insurance depending on the cause of the fire and the damage done. If your vehicle caught fire due to a car accident with another vehicle or object, your insurance claim will most likely be handled by your auto collision insurance. However, most fire-related losses from other causes are covered by your comprehensive insurance policy, or by a supplemental fire insurance policy.
What Coverage Pays for Burned Vehicles?
Comprehensive car insurance coverage is intended to protect you from damage caused by any force of nature, vandalism, theft and other types of non-collision losses. Supplemental fire insurance is also available and can be used to fill in any gaps in your coverage for a variety of other potential liabilities.
Car Fire Scenarios
Some examples of damage that is typically covered by comprehensive car insurance include:
- A mechanical or wiring defect that caused an engine fire
- If the vehicle is stolen and a thief burns it to hide evidence
- If a house or other structure fire spreads to adjacent vehicles
Supplemental fire insurance can cover nearly any eventuality resulting from a fire depending on the specific wording of the policy agreement itself. Always read the policy carefully when acquiring any kind of insurance.
For example, supplemental fire insurance may cover things like:
- The possessions inside you vehicle that are damaged by a fire
- A rental car while your car is being repaired or replaced
- Ancillary expenses like lost work days caused by downtime during repairs
Arson is the intentional causation of a fire. Arson is also a very serious crime with a lengthy prison sentence. Regarding your car insurance, there are two types of arson to consider.
- Arson in which you are the person who started the fire intentionally or were assisting the people starting the fire is a crime and it is also insurance fraud (another serious crime) if you make a claim for reimbursement afterward.
- Arson in which an unknown criminal starts a fire that damages your car. Typically these kinds of events are covered by your insurance provided you had no way of knowing or protecting your vehicle in a reasonable way ahead of time, (i.e. you didn’t choose to park your car next to a massive pile of dynamite with a stranger holding a match next to it).
Negligence is one of the most complex areas of insurance law. It revolves around the question, did you know or should you have known that your vehicle was in danger and could you have mitigated that risk rather than allowing damage to occur. A good example of simple negligence is a fire caused by you leaving a full gas can on your front seat while parking your car at the beach in the hot sun. Your negligence may void your insurance claim if the insurance company is able to demonstrate that the fire could have been avoided if you had acted reasonably.
A garage fire is a common cause of fire damage to vehicles. Insurance coverage depends mostly on who owned the garage and who owned the vehicles that were damaged.
Usually if a fire starts in your own garage, any damage to your vehicle will be covered by a comprehensive auto insurance policy, rather than your building insurance. However, if a neighbor’s car catches fire due to a fire on your property, or if your vehicle catches fire from an event on their property, then a claim via homeowner’s or a personal liability insurance policy is more likely to cover the damage.
Engine fires caused by a defective engine are covered by your auto insurance. Engine fires caused by an external event like someone pouring gasoline on an active engine, or lightning striking the engine, would not be covered by auto insurance.
Some insurance policies specifically exclude natural disasters and acts of war from your coverage. That becomes very important in the event of a car fire caused by an earthquake, lightning or terrorism. Make sure you read your policy carefully and acquire supplemental fire insurance to handle these kinds of events if the occur.
Car accidents are covered by your car insurance, and a fire that results from a car accident is also covered by most basic collision auto policies.
How to File a Claim for Fire Damage
Filing an insurance claim after a car fire is actually a simple process. Insurance companies do understand the hardship of dealing with a damaged vehicle after a fire and they provide compassionate support via phone, email or in person.
If your car has been damaged by any kind of fire, you should begin the claims process by contacting your insurance company immediately. Delaying your claim will delay any reimbursement, and extensive delay of weeks, months or years may void your claim entirely.
Most insurance companies offer a toll-free claims phone number listed on your insurance cards, policies, and the company website. The insurance representative will ask you a few questions about the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage to start the claims process.
They will also arrange a time and place for an insurance adjuster to come and inspect the car to assess the damage. The adjuster will want to determine the cause of the fire to see if it is covered by your policy, and the extent of the damage to appraise what the cost would be to repair or replace the vehicle.
Relax, if your claim is investigated for fraud, do not be alarmed as this is a very common procedure. In most instances the investigation is part of the company’s due diligence process and will conclude quickly that no fraud has occurred.
Assuming no negligence or fraud, your insurance company will then process your claim. If the vehicle is repairable, the company will either issue you a payment for the cost of repairs minus any applicable deductibles or the company will arrange to have the vehicle towed and repaired at an authorized auto repair shop with the payment sent directly from the insurance company to the mechanics for the repairs.
If the vehicle has been “totaled” that means the company has decided the cost of replacement is lower than the cost for repairs. In cases of total loss, your insurance company will assess the actual cash value of the vehicle and issue a settlement accordingly based on the blue book value of the vehicle and after any depreciation amounts are deducted.
Some comprehensive policies have specific inclusions for fire damage claims, however it is common for an auto insurance policy to include specific fire claims exclusions. Be sure to check which type of policy you have and add supplemental fire insurance coverage if necessary to protect you from the cost of car fire repairs. Fire-related losses can be devastating, and having effective fire insurance coverage in place is the best way to maintain your peace of mind.