How to File a Flood Insurance Claim
Recent flooding due to an active hurricane season is still fresh in all of our minds. Now as hurricane season is officially beginning to wind down it’s the perfect time to reflect on what changes should be made to personal insurance policies to be better prepared for next year.
If you are among the millions of Americans affected by the recent flooding, you have most likely already seen the insurance claims process in action. The insurance industry stands ready to pay all documented claims and keep the promises it made to policy holders. For those of you who were lucky enough to avoid filing a flood insurance claim the following information may prove helpful for future incidents.
If you have purchased flood insurance and you are able to document your losses, you will receive compensation as promised in your policy.
If you are in a flood zone, you should have flood insurance, regardless of what part of the country you live in. The cause of flooding - be it inland rains, swelling rivers or hurricanes - does not matter, so the risk of flooding is prevalent in most parts of the country.
Remember that your basic homeowner's insurance policy does not cover flood damage. Generally, homeowners must purchase a separate policy to cover flood damage via the National Flood Insurance Program or from just a few private carriers.
To ensure the highest possible compensation level and fastest settlement of your claim, follow these tips:
- Keep your family safe. Evacuate when ordered by authorities and come back only when it is safe to do so. The insurance industry would much rather pay out property damage claims than pay out life insurance claims.
- Separate damaged from undamaged property as best you can. Move damaged items outside. Cut a sample of wall-to-wall carpeting, wallpaper and other valuable items that can't be moved, to show your adjustor.
- Don't discard anything before your adjuster sees it, unless directed to do so by law enforcement.
- Photograph all damaged items and structures.
- Contact your insurance agent, so they can arrange for an adjustor to inspect the property as soon as possible.
- File Proof of Loss documents within 60 days of the flood. Start gathering written estimates and bids from licensed contractors to repair the flood damage.
- Retain copies of all correspondence with the insurance company and any contractors involved.
- Write down names, titles and the substance of any discussions you may have with your agent, the adjuster or insurance company representatives.
- If your car was damaged, file that claim with your auto insurer.
- If you find additional damage within the 60-day window, notify your agent immediately and file a request for an Additional Flood Payment. FEMA may grant extensions in some circumstances. Your agent and adjustor can assist you. If you have water damage other than from flood waters (e.g., rainwater coming through a hole in the roof), this may have to be covered by your homeowner's insurance or by your state's windstorm and hurricane insurance. Speak with your agent for details.
Appealing a denial or low settlement offer
If you are denied, or if you believe the settlement amount is improperly low, you can appeal your insurance company's decision, as follows:
Follow your carrier's internal procedures. Often the insurer makes a low offer because there is missing documentation. If your adjuster and your adjustor's supervisor can't resolve your issue, you can elevate it to your carriers' claim representative. We can provide assistance and contact information.
Get an appraisal. If you have a dispute over the value of a covered item, you can request an independent appraisal, which cannot be appealed.
Appeal to FEMA. If that doesn't produce a satisfactory result, you can file an appeal with FEMA within 60 days of the denial letter from your insurance carrier.
File suit. If that doesn't resolve your issue, your last resort is to file a lawsuit within a year of the first denial of all or part of your claim. File your suit in the court for the district where the damage occurred.
Where to learn more
For more complete information on filing a flood insurance claim, download this booklet from FEMA: (https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1409252356253-ee460a21e69333f01eea03a8f55eb3c6/F-687_ClaimsHandbook_508XI_A
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