In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which caused historic flooding and other water damage with its approx. 20 trillion gallons of torrential rain, you may be asking yourself how to deal with your property damage and also how to navigate the insurance claim process (assuming you have flood insurance). Below is a helpful list of things to do after any inundation wreaks property damage:
Even though the flood causing hurricane, storm, or disastrous event may be over, residents may still be in harm’s way. Do not attempt to do anything that your local officials say is unsafe to do. Continue to monitor the news. If there’s any medical or other type of emergency, physical injury, or death or you or any of your loved ones are in a life-threatening situation, first call 911. You can also call your local county emergency operation center or the US Coast Guard. Do not drive on flooded roadways. Always Remember – “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”
Safe-keep Your Furniture and Belongings
If you are not dealing with an emergency situation, return to your property safely. Once you are there to assess the property damage, if there is still flood water present, ensure that you shut off the electricity and gas at your property. Move your possessions away from the water to mitigate further damage to your personal property. It is important to keep track of all damage to your property. You may want to separate the damaged property from the undamaged property. Click here for a sample form that you can use to keep an organized list of all your damaged personal property.
Document the Damage
Take photographs of the water levels and any damage to your property as soon as possible. Photos help your insurance adjuster determine how much you should be compensated for the property damage and can later help in court if litigation is necessary. Pictures of your home or commercial property before the property damage can sometimes offer a “compare and contrast” to show the true extent of the property damage caused by the hurricane or storm. Make sure you take photographs of all types of property damage, including discarded objects, structural damage, and standing floodwater levels. If you can, take videos of the property damage as well.
Inform Your Flood Insurance Company
Promptly tell your flood insurance company you’ve suffered property damage due to the flooding. Cooperate with them and tell them the extent of your losses and property damage. Be sure that you do not confuse your flood insurance carrier, with other types of property insurance that you may have. Notify all of the appropriate insurance carriers. Before you call your insurance, ensure you have the name of your insurance company, your policy number, and a telephone and/or email address where you can be reached at all times. Write down the claim number that the insurance representative gives you, and keep it handy when communicating with your insurance company. Once you talk to your insurance it is a good idea to send them any photos or videos of the property damage. You also want to make sure you memorialize your communications with your insurance company, including the date and time of any calls, emails or texts, who you communicated with, and the details that you communicated about the property damage. If possible, provide notice in writing to document that the notice obligation has been satisfied. Policies usually provide for a short notification period after the covered property damage event.
Take Steps to Prevent Any Further Damage and Dry Out Your Home
After you have thoroughly documented all your damage, and notified your flood insurance company, begin steps to prevent any further damage to your property. Using high water boots, gloves, and other protective equipment, take all affected large items such as rugs, furniture, bedding, and carpet outside to dry. Do not discard these items until you have thoroughly documented their damage and spoken to your insurance adjuster. Remove any natural debris, and, and dirt or mud out of the house. Remove Sheetrock and other water-absorbing construction materials to a few inches past the flood level. Cover the affected parts of your roof with tarp or some other moisture barrier material. If you do not think you can get this done yourself, you may need to obtain the help of family, friends, or neighbors or you may hire qualified contractors to help you.
Proof of Loss
Typically, your flood insurance policy will require you to file a “Proof of Loss” in connection with your property damage. A proof of loss summarizes the amount and extent of the property damage or loss. You must generally submit this signed and sworn Proof of Loss within 60 days after the flooding trigger event. Because when a person suffers a catastrophic or otherwise major loss, it often takes significantly longer than 60 days to assess and document the full extent of the property damage. In such circumstances, you can try to obtain an extension to this deadline in writing or sometimes the appropriate government agencies may grant extensions to that deadline.
Cooperate with the Insurance Adjuster
An insurance company adjuster will visit your home or business property to inspect the flood damage to your property. Provide them with any information they need regarding the extent of your property damage and make them aware that there may be additional property damage that you have not yet uncovered. At this inspection by the adjuster, make sure that you point out all of the property damage that you know of at the time.
Call a Contractor
If you aren’t satisfied with how your insurance company has valued your property damage, don’t give up. In some cases, it may be beneficial for you to engage one or more contractors that you trust to provide estimates on the repair and/or replacement cost of your property to compare with the amount your insurance adjuster has provided. Assertively inform the adjuster of your concerns.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
If you can’t agree on the value of the property damage, consider engaging an experienced flood damage attorney. An attorney can help you if an insurance company seeks to delay, deny, or unfairly value your property damage claim. Contact for a free, no obligation consultation related to your flood damage. Phone 713-840-1411.