Flood and Storm Surge Insurance Claims

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

Why Flood Insurance?

South Florida is known for many things. Beautiful weather, beautiful beaches, and powerful hurricanes are among those. The recent string of hurricanes did well to remind Floridians how quickly a storm can inundate your home with storm surge or flash flooding. Standard homeowners and renters insurance generally will not cover flood or storm surge damage and without any sort of flood insurance the cost to repair your home or business can be massively expensive.

How do I get Flood Insurance?

An easy way to get flood insurance is through the federal government. The federal government provides a subsidized flood insurance program known as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and is generally regarded as a great source to acquire flood insurance. If you reside in a high-risk flood zone, purchasing flood insurance may be a wise choice.

There is a chance you may already be insured.  Because of certain government regulations, if your home or business is located in a FEMA designated high-risk flood zone and you purchased your property with the help of a mortgage through a federally regulated and/or insured mortgage lender, your home may be required by law to carry flood insurance. You can find out if your property is in a floodplain by visiting FloodSmart.gov.

How to make a flood or storm surge insurance claim?

Before making a claim, there will generally be a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase until the time your coverage kicks in. Make sure that if you are purchasing flood insurance, you give yourself enough time so that your insurance kicks in by the time the storm hits.

If an impending flood is foreseeable (for example because of an incoming hurricane) you should document your property before the storm hits. After some flooding, you need to ensure you promptly notify your insurance company of any flooding that has occurred. Even if the flooding has subsided, you should notify your insurer nevertheless because flooding typically causes latent damages such as mold, and wood rot. Without proper notice, by the time a latent damage arises it may be too late to recover anything.

You should be properly and extensively documenting your claim at every step of the way. Document your claim with pictures, videos, logs, etc. Document your conversations with your insurers, and send confirmation emails containing the substance of your claims. All of this documentation will help settle your claim more efficiently and typically for more money. Not properly documenting can also have its consequences. For instance, in some cases insurers have refused to pay for personal property losses caused by flooding that would normally be covered under the policy simply because the insured failed to document their losses with an itemized list.

What is the claims process like with flood claims?

After you have completed the initial steps outlined above, your insurer will send out their adjuster to your home or business. The adjuster will inspect the property and will then send an estimate of the damages, as well as the amount for which she believes you are covered based on your policy. If you agree with the adjuster's estimate, the proof of loss form should be signed and sworn to and the loss amount will be settled. If you disagree with the adjuster, contact your insurer and discuss the disputed amount with a claims examiner. If you’re unable to reach an agreement with the claims examiner, you may complete an additional proof of loss form for the amount you are requesting and send this to your insurer’s claim examiner, along with documentation supporting the additional amount you are requesting.

After this, your insurer may agree with the documentation and pay the requested amount (or recommend the adjusting firm an additional payable amount and new proof of loss) or the insurer will pay any undisputed amount and issue a denial letter explaining the denial of your claim in part or in whole. If you wish to further dispute the denial you may: 1) send an amended proof of loss with supporting documents back to the claim examiner; 2) submit a formal appeal to FEMA within 60 days of your insurer’s denial letter; or 3) file a lawsuit against your insurer within a year of your insurer’s first denial letter and in a Federal court in the district in which the property is located. But beware, once a lawsuit is filed you may no longer appeal your claim to FEMA.

What if my property was flooded and I don’t have flood or storm surge coverage?

If you are a resident or business owner in a designated area that has sustained flood losses, you may be entitled to FEMA assistance. You can apply by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Additionally, you can apply for federal disaster relief benefits, which come in the form of low interest loans.

Why would my insurer deny all or part of my claim?

There may be a variety of reasons including purchasing the policy less than 30 days before a flood, untimely or incorrect premium payments, not complying with your contractual duties after your loss, etc. Generally, federal flood insurance coverage is capped at $250,000 and $100,000 for contents. Additionally, many things are typically excluded by flood insurance coverage, such as: Damage caused by moisture, mildew, or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner or which was not attributable to the flood; damage caused by earth movement even if the earth movement was caused by the flood; additional living expenses while your property is repaired; loss of use or access to the property; lost profits as a result of business interruption; property and belongings outside of an insured building such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walks, decks, patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs, and swimming pools; currency, precious metals, stock certificates, etc.; and self-propelled vehicles such as cars.

You can reach Miami Flood Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].

Sources

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1454965506940-fabb104bfd871fd94e3c6ce5e3d59e19/NFIP_Flood_Claim_Process.pdf

https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program

https://www.consumerreports.org/flood-insurance/what-flood-insurance-does-and-does-not-cover/

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1432130966606-ec9a9793a03f4a4b5655de0db708a256/Fact_Sheet_What_is_Covered-508.pdf