Proper Steps Necessary When Filing a Flood Insurance Claim

November 23, 2005

Flood insurance policyholders who suffered damages from flooding in the wake of Hurricane Wilma may have a number of questions about their policies. If you’ve filed a claim with your insurance company, here’s what you can expect to happen next:

* Generally, an adjuster will contact you within 24-48 hours after receiving your notice of loss. Depending on local conditions, this initial contact may take more time. The adjuster will then visit to survey the damage, both to structure and contents. More than one visit may be necessary.
* The adjuster will then use the information from his or her visits, as well as the documentation you have provided, to complete a detailed estimate of damages; you will receive a copy, which you can use as a guide when asking contractors for bids for repair work. The adjuster and your insurance agent will assist you in working through the claims process. Your loss will be payable as soon as possible after your insurer receives the adjuster’s report.
* If you cannot agree with the adjuster on the amount of damage, you should ask for assistance from the adjuster’s supervisor. Disputes must be worked out with the insurance company. If all else fails, visit the nearest Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). The DRC Mitigation Advisor can put you in contact with a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) insurance specialist.

If you have flood insurance and have not yet filed a claim, call your agent or insurance company immediately . Have the following information with you when you call: (1) the name of your insurance company, (2) your policy number, and (3) a telephone number and/or e-mail address where you can be reached. If you cannot be reached easily, provide the name of a designated relative or point-of-contact who can reach you. If you do not know the name of your insurance company, visit the nearest DRC. They may be able to assist you.

Once you’ve filed your claim

While you await a phone call from an adjuster – either an insurance company employee or an independent contractor hired by the insurer – there are a number of steps you can take to prepare for the adjuster’s visit:

* As soon as it is safe to visit the property, photograph both the outside and inside so that you will have a record of the damage and the height of the water. Photograph or videotape all damaged possessions as well.
* If you have already prepared a thorough, detailed list of your home’s contents, now is the time to update it, separating the damaged from the undamaged. If you have not done so, take an inventory of all your items now. When possible, include the age and value of damaged or lost items.
* Separate damaged items from undamaged items. If necessary, place items outside your home. If some things are too damaged to save and may pose a health hazard, such as soaked carpeting or drapes, be sure to save a swatch of the fabric for the adjuster.
* Also make a list of any structural damage you wish to point out to the insurance adjuster.
* It is a good idea to have receipts for any items of value, as this helps the adjuster establish their current worth. It is also a good idea to have readily available the model and serial numbers of any damaged appliances or electronic gear. The better and more detailed your records, the faster the claim can be settled.
* You may want to get a contractor’s estimate of what it will cost to repair the damage even before the adjuster arrives. If you do, be sure to provide the contractor’s quote to the adjuster so that it can be considered in preparing the insurer’s estimate.
* When the adjuster arrives, the claim can be processed more quickly if the two of you can agree right away on the scope of the damage – exactly what needs to be repaired or replaced, without arriving at a dollar amount.

Depending on the complexity of the claim, a settlement can sometimes be made on the first visit. If a full settlement cannot be made at that time, often an adjuster can supply an advance or partial payment.

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