My home flooded. How do I recover from this devastating event?
Flood insurance is available to both homes and businesses. Fortunately, many people in Houston purchased such insurance to protect their property from damage or complete loss. Still others in Houston did not have flood coverage, for various reasons including lack of flood history in the area, denial of flood coverage from the insurance agency, or failure to anticipate a disastrous event like Hurricane Harvey.
If you have flood insurance, you should know that most policies are controlled by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and this is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Policyholders have up to 60 days to make a claim and begin the process of recovering lost possessions. To make a claim, you must submit a “Proof of Loss” with your insurance companies. With all the chaos surrounding this devastating flood, the last thing you want to do is read through all the fine print. Here’s a checklist to make sure you take advantage of your rights to recovery:
- Safety is a priority. When returning to your property, make sure the electricity and gas have been properly shut off. If you have any questions about this process, contact your service provider for guidance.
- Remove your belongings from the water. This will protect your belongings from any further damage. Be sure to document all damage to your belongings that you encounter while cleaning up. Although it may seem tedious, it will help you when it is time to make a claim.
- Take several photos and videos of all the damage. Documenting the damage will make claims much easier to process down the road. We suggest recording any and all damages to private belongings, structural damage to your home or business, and showing the levels of stagnant floodwater. It is critical that all damages be documented as soon as possible. Do not risk personal injury for close-up photos. Experts will be able to assist you when assessing the extent of damage to structures and property.
- Contact your insurance provider. The sooner you contact your agent or insurance company, the sooner you can begin receiving help. Phones may be busy, so emailing may be a faster alternative. Reviewing your claim is an excellent way to answer any questions you may have while waiting for a response from your insurance provider. It is very important that you continue to follow up until you receive a claim number.
- An insurance agent will be able to confirm that you have flood insurance and should get you in contact with an insurance adjuster. These are professionals at assessing damages and negotiating a fair price from your policy provider. Here is a great resource for filing your Standard Flood Insurance Policy.
- Cleaning up. Remember that flood waters can contain dangerous elements, unseen to the human eye. Debris in the water, dissolved chemicals, and even sewage are concerns for public safety, so please be cautious when starting this endeavor. We recommend protective clothing, such as gloves, and you should take proper sanitation measures during any breaks from cleaning up. Everyday household items can absorb water and retain unsanitary floodwater. Bedding, stuffed animals, blankets, soft furniture, and carpets will need to be removed because of their exposure to the floodwater. Contact your insurance company before you discard any belongings, as they may be needed for your claim. Paper items, such as books and photographs that have not been destroyed, are safe to keep.
- Protect what is left of your home. Open doors and windows while you are cleaning to help the water to escape. If your home has electricity, running the air conditioner can help dehumidify your home and reduce moisture levels. Diluted bleach water is an effective way to sanitize your home and prevents the development of mold and mildew. More damage can be avoided by placing tarps over any roof damage.
- Share your photos and videos of damages with your insurance company. During this step, it is important to take notes about who you were in contact with, what documents were shared, and a brief summary of what was discussed with the agent. Detailing the time of the call and who you spoke with are also great pieces of information to have later on if any problems should arise.
- File a Proof of Loss under your Standard Flood Insurance Policy. The Proof of Loss must be filed within 60 days of the date the damages occurred, including all supporting documentation. Extensions to the deadline can be made in writing by the Associate Administrator for Federal Insurance and Mitigation. Proof of Loss is required for any payment to be issued by your insurance company or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Download your Proof of Loss form here.
- If you speak to an insurance adjuster, they may ask you about the extent of your flood damage. It is important to mention that the damages you can easily see and document are not always the full extent of the damage to your property. It takes a professional to uncover hidden damage, and hiring a professional insurance adjuster can ensure that your home is thoroughly inspected by a professional who knows what to look for when surveying damage to a structure.
- Do not sign the Proof of Loss if you disagree with the total amount of damage assessed by the insurance provider. By signing this document, you are guaranteeing that all the information listed is accurate and true. Obtaining estimates from third-party contractors is a great way to independently confirm the amount needed to restore your property.
- Contact Williams Hart with any questions or concerns related to your insurance claim. While you do not have to choose Williams Hart, we strongly advise that you hire an attorney that you trust. If you do choose to work with us, we believe that you will find our resources, experience, and compassion for our clients is second-to-none.
The entire team at Williams Hart understand the feeling of loss that so many people in Houston are feeling right now in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. We are feeling it as well, since so many of us experienced devastating wind damage and flooding to our own homes. We are working to put the pieces back together in our own lives, and we are strongly committed to helping you put yours back together as well. Let’s work together to make our community in Houston even stronger than it was before.
If you suffered flood damage or serious wind damage, we strongly urge you to hire a legal team that will help you protect your financial interests during this trying time. Contact the experienced Hurricane Harvey insurance attorneys of Williams Hart by emailing us through our contact form, chatting with us live on our website, or calling us at (713) 352-0031 today.