As you may know, this last month fires tore through San Diego County with a vengeance leaving hundreds of people in a similar situation as you might have experienced. CARe will be hosting an upcoming recovery meeting and would love to hear what kinds of tips you would share with these new survivors. If you got this via email, just reply to the email. If you're reading this online, submit your tip on the Contact Us page.
If you know anyone that was personally effected by the fires, please forward our information to them and we can connect them to the support community that is starting to rally behind these survivors.
[UPDATE - Tip 1] - I got a reply from a 2007 total loss survivor saying they were told early in the claim that they actually had to replace personal property items to get paid for them so they started replacing items as they thought of them even if they weren't immediately needed. But once they turned in an extensive inventory to the insurance company they were paid a lump sum amount with no further documentation.
The lesson I take away from this is to BE PATIENT and do an inventory. Replace items as they are needed. Of course you should always save the receipts for things you replace as it is the prerogative of the insurance company to ask for documentation (and you may need it if you don't run up against your limits and need to recapture depreciation), but before you start replacing items that aren't immediately needed, start turning partial lists of your inventory in to the insurance company and see payments are treated. What you're told initially isn't always how it ends up.
[UPDATE - Tip 2] - Another 2007 total loss survivor had another great little list of things to keep in mind. "Be patient! Do not let the insurance company rush you into a settlement. Even the "best" insurance companies will try to reduce their payouts. Document every call, email, letter and correspondence between you and the insurance company. Remember, the insurance companies are in business to make money. They are NOT your friend."