Today, the remnants of Imelda are causing serious flash flooding in parts of southeast Texas. According to CNN.com, the storm could drop 5 to 10 more inches of rain on the Upper Texas Coast region Thursday, bringing three-day totals to as high as 25 to 35 inches in some places.
Mostyn Law is here to answer any questions regarding flood damage. Stay safe Houston and please share these resources with anyone affected.
For homeowners and businesses who have flood insurance, most policies are controlled by the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”) administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”). The NFIP has special rules for making flood claims. To make a claim, you must file a “proof of loss” with your insurance company. The standard deadline to file a proof of loss is 60 days. Read these tips below to protect your right to recover:
- Be sure your property is safe before returning. Shut off your gas and electricity for safety. If you are unsure how to do this or unable to do this on your own, contact your service providers for help.
- Get your belongings out of the water. Move anything that you can off the floor to avoid further damage to your personal property. List any and all damage you find when cleaning up.
- Call or email your insurance agent. If you have flood insurance, your agent will tell you and help you make a claim, and an adjuster will contact you. If you cannot contact your agent to help you make your claim, call your insurance company immediately and report your claim as soon as possible. The sooner you report your claim, the sooner you will get on any waitlist there may be to get an adjuster to your home. Review your insurance policy and/or check online to see if there is an email address where claims can be made. If so, this may be your quickest and most efficient option for reporting your claim. Just be sure to follow up until you are assigned a claim number.
- Take photos and/or video of the damage to your home, including damaged personal property, structural damage, and standing floodwater levels. It is very important that you document all damage immediately. You’ll need complete records for your insurance claim.
- Clean Up! Remember flood waters contain all sorts of debris, including unsanitary items. Wear gloves and clothing you can discard. Take big items such as furniture, comforters, rugs, and carpets outside to dry. Be sure to check with your insurance company before discarding any damaged items. Make sure to shovel any debris and mud out of the house. Disinfect all surfaces. A solution of ¼ cup chlorine bleach and a gallon of water works well to kill germs and prevent mold and mildew. Open doors and windows and use fans to circulate the air. If your power is on run the air conditioner to help remove moisture or use a dehumidifier. Very absorbent items like pillows, stuffed animals, mattresses, and thick carpets will probably need to be thrown out if they have been contaminated with floodwater. Photos, books, and other paper items can be salvaged by carefully rinsing any debris, gently drying and then freezing in plastic freezer bags. This will prevent mildew or discoloration until you have time to clean or have a professional restore the items. Remove sheetrock, plaster, and paneling to at least the flood level. Tarp any roof damage.
- When you have the visible damage documented, send any photos and/or videos to your insurance company. Thoroughly document any contact with your insurance company, including the date and time of any calls, who you spoke with, and the general substance of your conversations. For helpful information on filing your flood claim under a Standard Flood Insurance Policy, click here.
- If you have a Standard Flood Insurance Policy, you will need to file a Proof of Loss with your insurance company. The Proof of Loss and all required supporting documentation must be filed within 60 days after the date of loss or within any extension of that deadline made in writing by the Associate Administrator for Federal Insurance and Mitigation. This is required before the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or insurance company will issue any payment. Click here to learn more about the required Proof of Loss and to download the form.
- When the insurance company adjuster visits your home to inspect the flood damage, the adjuster may rely on you to provide information regarding the extent of your flood damage. Be sure to tell the adjuster that any damage you point out, documented or discuss is only the damage you have noticed, and there may be other damage that you are unaware of or that is not immediately visible to an untrained eye.
- If you disagree with the amount of damage found by the insurance company’s adjuster or the amount the insurance company is paying you for your damage, do not sign the proof of loss attesting to those damages. Remember, by signing a Proof of Loss, you are swearing that the information provided is true and correct. Instead, obtain estimates to repair/replace your property from a trusted contractor to compare with the amount that insurance company is paying, and make sure you are being covered prior to signing a Proof of Loss.
- As always, contact Mostyn Law with any insurance claim-related questions.