Think You Are Fully Covered When a Hurricane Strikes? Flooding Might Be a Problem

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

Many homeowners who suffered through Hurricane Sandy have been enjoying the multi-year break from harsh tropical storms and hurricanes.  However, our good fortune will not hold indefinitely, so it is worth revisiting an insurance coverage issue that was a huge problem for some Florida homeowners in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  Although the hurricane did not make landfall in South Florida, it did cause large swells generated by Sandy’s massive wind field that caused significant coastal flooding.  Many homeowners found that their claims were vastly underpaid.  Some property owners were left in a dire situation because their living rooms and kitchens were underwater and severely damaged.  In many cases, homes were in an uninhabitable state.  Some property owners discovered that they only had insurance coverage on the first elevated floor of their residence.

The National Insurance Flood Program (NFIP) provides homeowners with coverage in the event of flood, so it is essentially an additional form of homeowners insurance.  However, the date a residence was constructed or that a major home improvement was undertaken can radically impact flood coverage.  In the wake of Sandy, homeowners learned that residences constructed in communities that were not already accepted into the NFIP might be “grandfathered” with regard to NFIP coverage if the community was included on a Flood Insurance Rate Map.  For homeowners in this situation, the NFIP will generally provide full coverage from the ground floor and above.  NFIP coverage might provide limited coverage for a flooded basement depending on when the property was constructed.

The bad news is that if your home was constructed or substantially improved after your community was accepted into the NFIP and after preparation of a Flood Insurance Rate Map, your home is probably only covered for flooding of the first level standing above the base flood level.  Because many homeowners were unaware of this limitation prior to Hurricane Sandy, they failed to purchase additional policies that could have provided the coverage they needed for the rest of their home.

Many homeowners rely on their insurance agent to provide sound advice regarding the coverage they need to provide complete financial protection during a disaster.  However, policyholders should carefully review their own policy to confirm that the policy provides adequate protection.  If policyholders are unclear about language, exclusions, restrictions and limitations under the policy, they might want to seek legal advice before disaster strikes.

As an experienced Florida insurance coverage attorney, I believe that policyholders are entitled to proper counseling and guidance from their insurance broker.  My law firm fights against misconduct and bad faith that can threaten to leave homeowners high and dry.  If you are concerned that your homeowners insurance policy does not provide adequate protection or you have had your claim denied, delayed or underpaid, we can review your policy and advise you regarding your options.

I am former insurance claims adjuster who handles disputed claims in Miami and throughout Florida.  The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations.  No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees.  Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.

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