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REALITY CHECK: How to prepare for the tragedy of losing your home

How prepared are you if your home goes up in flames? In April, we told you about an 83-year-old who lost her home in a fire. Now, Mary Owens is fighting an insurance company to get what she believes she deserves. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

How prepared are you if your home goes up in flames? In April, we told you about an 83-year-old who lost her home in a fire. Now, she's fighting an insurance company to get what she believes she deserves.

It takes a lot to get Mary Owens to laugh these days. Owens still drives and does her own shopping. She takes great pride in her independence, but she recently lost that independence.

"It was horrible. I just grabbed her (her daughter) and cried. I just lost everything. It just, it was awful," said Owens, who sat down with News13 on her daughter's furniture, in her daughter's house, where she currently lives.

Owens' home burned down in April. They were told lightning caused the fire. It wasn't the first time her life changed in a flash.

"It was all I had left. I lost my husband 10 years ago. Four years ago, I lost my son. Then my home. So, what do I have left," asked Owens.

She has family.


"We don't come and look at it," Debra Thompson said about the burned home.

Debra is helping her mother fight to get an insurance payment for her belongings. That's part of why the home still sits, even though Owens sold the property. Thompson says the contents policy was for $100,000, and the insurance company offered less than half.

"I said you're going to what? And she said, 'I'm going to send you $41,000.' I said don't bother. I will not accept. I said I've got to have what the policy states so I can do something with my life," said Owens.

Owens says the company didn't offer much of an explanation on how it came up with the amount of $41,000.

"No! One thing she did say, she said because your stuff you had in your house was old. Sure it was old! I had lived there 38 years," said Owens.

After the fire, Owens wrote a list of her belongings from memory for the insurance company. She didn't have pictures or receipts stored elsewhere, which the Red Cross recommends.

"For you to try to sit down and remember everything you've just lost for either insurance paper work or to try and start to get replaced, if you have that in pictures, it's so much easier. It's a lot less stress on you," said Fran Schlesinger, a volunteer on the Red Cross Disaster Action Team.

News 13 contacted Owens' insurance company. A spokesperson said it was an open claim and she couldn't comment.

A different insurance company advised people to find out whether they have a policy for actual cash value or replacement cost coverage. Actual cash value means an insurance company could offer what a 10-year-old TV is worth today. Replacement cost means the company would offer what a similar TV costs to buy now.

He recommends people schedule a meeting once a year to go over their home insurance policy. Another way to be ready is to make a list of your belongings and keep receipts of purchases and take pictures or videos of those things. Store them elsewhere. The Red Cross also recommends establishing a meeting place near the home in the case of a disaster.

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