How to File a Flood Insurance Claim After Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey devastated much of southeast Texas, bringing catastrophic flooding to Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Baytown and other communities in its path. At least 50 people were tragically killed, while thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed by Harvey’s unprecedented rainfall and the Flood Control District’s decision to release millions of gallons of water into Houston, Beaumont and Montgomery County.
Thousands of Harris County residents now face the daunting task of repairing their flood-damaged homes. Those fortunate enough to have flood insurance are depending on those policies to help get back on their feet.
While some policyholders may not encounter any difficulty or resistance in recovering their losses, it’s likely that many insurance companies will categorically deny, underpay or delay claims in an effort to limit payouts and preserve profits.
Having represented thousands of property owners in connection with wind and flood damage claims, we’ve seen a direct correlation between the total damages caused by the storm and the insurance company’s willingness to cover their policyholders’ claims.
In other words, the more the storm causes covered property damage, the more likely the insurance companies are to resist fully compensating their policyholders for valid claims.
Many insurance companies will continue to deny, delay and underpay claims until they face penalties for their “bad faith” refusal to properly pay the claims in a lawsuit.
Filing a flood insurance claim can be an overwhelming process, especially after a catastrophic disaster like Hurricane Harvey.
How to File a Flood Damage Claim for your Home or Business Following Hurricane Harvey
In an effort to assist Texas homeowners and businesses that sustained flood damage during Hurricane Harvey, our Flood Damage Lawyers prepared the step-by-step overview of the claims process below.
If you have any questions about your rights, how to flood damage claim, or what to do if your insurance company denies, delays or underpays your claim, contact our Undefeated Flood Damage Lawyers at 1-888-603-3636 or by filling out our contact form here.
All consultations are free and because we work exclusively on a contingency fee, you won’t pay us anything unless we recover more than what your insurance company has already offered you.
Step 1: Does Your Insurance Policy Cover Flood Damage?
Standard homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage caused by rain or storm surges. Flood insurance must be obtained from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Unfortunately, it’s estimated that only 10 to 20 percent of Houston and Beaumont homeowners had flood insurance when Hurricane Harvey made landfall, because most were told that they didn’t need it since their homes or business were located outside the 100-year floodplain (meaning there’s less than a 1 percent chance that the property would flood in a given year).
Given that over 40 percent of the properties that sustained flood were located outside the floodplains,” it’s become evident that the 100-year floodplains are entirely outdated and grossly inaccurate.
Step 2: Immediately File a Flood Insurance Claim
If you’re among the 10 to 20 percent of Houston and Beaumont residents fortunate enough to have flood insurance, you SHOULD be able to cover the full repair or replacement costs of your property after filing a timely claim with your insurance carrier.
Even though your flood insurance policy is underwritten/backed by FEMA, it’s likely administered through a private insurance company, many of which are notorious for improperly delaying, denying and underpaying claims — especially after severe storms that could result in billions of dollars of insurance losses.
To ensure that all losses are attributable to the flood and that you comply with any notice requirements contained in your policy, it’s critical that you notify your insurance carrier of your damages as soon as possible.
When you call, make sure you have your policy number on hand, and record the date of the call and the name of the person you spoke with.
Because of the volume of claims being filed as a result of Harvey, it’s not uncommon to experience some delays in getting the adjuster out to inspect your home. If you’ve repeatedly contacted your carrier, however, and they continue to delay the inspection, our lawyers can help expedite the process by contacting the insurer on your behalf.
Step 3: Document the Flood Damage
While you’re waiting for the inspection to take place, you should try to locate and collect any receipts (or credit card statements showing the cost of your damaged items), as well as all pictures you or anyone else has taken of your home, contents, and other damaged property. You’ll likely need this evidence to substantiate your damages and ensure that you’re being fully compensated for your losses.
Once you’ve been told it’s safe to return to your home, you should also:
- Create a detailed description of your damaged property, including the cost of the property, when it was purchased, and whether any items are missing from your home.
- Obtain receipts, credit card statements showing the cost of your damaged items, and any other documents that prove when your items were purchased and how much they cost.
- Provide copies of your documentation, photographs and videos to your flood insurance company to substantiate your claims, but be sure to retain copies for your own records.
Do not discard damaged property or make repairs until an insurance adjuster has inspected the property. You may not be able to receive compensation for any damaged property the adjuster is unable to inspect.
Step 4: An Adjuster Will Inspect Your Property
You have the right to a comprehensive inspection of any property that’s been damaged during the flood. When the inspection occurs, you should be there to accompany the adjuster throughout your home or business, so that you can answer any questions about the value of your property and ensure that all your damaged property has been inventoried.
In a disaster as massive as Hurricane Harvey, your adjuster may try to rush through the inspection, which could cause them to miss or undervalue your damaged property. You have a right to a comprehensive inspection of your flood-damaged property.
During the inspection, the adjuster will ask you questions about your home’s condition prior to Hurricane Harvey. While you should be as accurate as possible when describing your losses, it’s not uncommon to overlook or underestimate the significance of damages during the inspection. To ensure that you preserve your right to identify additional damages as they’re discovered, tell your adjuster that you’ll notify them if any additional damages are discovered after the inspection is completed.
Step 5: Monitor and Document the Claims Process
Document all of your communications with the insurance company.
Save copies of any letters, faxes or emails you send to OR receive from your insurer.
Finally, keep a diary of any calls or conversations you have with claims adjusters, documenting the time and date of the call or conservation, the name of the individual you spoke with, and what issues you discussed. You can often get this information on your phone bill, but it’s helpful to have a note of your calls on your phone or computer in the event that you need to access it quickly.
Step 6: File your Proof of Loss Form within 60 Days After the Date of Loss
Once your inspection is complete, you must file a “Proof of Loss” form within 60 days of your loss. You may be able to obtain this form from your adjuster, or you can get a copy online at FEMA’s website.
The “Proof of Loss” form is your statement of the property that was damaged, what that property was worth, and the amount of money you’re requesting to compensate you for the losses.
It’s common for the insurer to request supporting documents, which is why we recommend that you locate any receipts or credit card statements showing when the property was purchased and how much you paid for it.
Unless FEMA provides an extension, you must file this form within 60 days of the flood. Failing to do so will likely result in your claim being denied.
According to FEMA, “[t]he complete Proof of Loss, signed and sworn by the policyholder, along with documentation to support the amount requested initially and any requests for additional payment must be sent to the NFIP servicing Agent or Write Your Own Company (“NFIP Insurer”) 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.”
If you disagree with the insurance company’s appraisal of your damages, do not sign the “Proof of Loss” form.
If you disagree with the appraisal, you should also hire a third-party contractor to inspect and provide an estimate of the cost to fix or replace the property. Once you’ve obtained the estimate, you can compare it to the insurance company’s appraisal and use your independent estimate to support the repair or replacement costs of your property.
In order for your insurance company to consider it, however, you MUST provide a copy to your insurance adjuster as soon as possible, preferably within 60 days of when the flood occurred.
If you’re not able to obtain the estimate within 60 days of the flood, contact your adjuster and request an extension. If they refuse to provide it to you, contact our Flood Damage Lawyers so that we can be sure to preserve your right to both receive compensation for the property and hold the insurer liable for bad faith penalties and interest for refusing to include the estimate in your total damage appraisal.
Step 7: If Your Insurance Company Delays, Denies, or Underpays Your Flood Insurance Claim, Contact Our Undefeated Flood Damage lawyers at 1-888-603-3636 or by Clicking Here.
Unfortunately, our experience representing hundreds of Texans who suffered damage in Hurricanes Ike and Rita has shown that many of Hurricane Harvey’s victims will see their flood insurance claims delayed, denied, or underpaid.
If you have any questions about the claims process, your rights, or what to do if your insurer improperly delays, denies or underpays your claim, contact our Flood Damage Lawyers at 1-888-603-3636 or by clicking here.
In addition to being undefeated and recovering over $1 Billion on behalf of our clients, we’ve personally experienced the catastrophic damage that Texans suffered as a result of Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented flooding and are committed to doing whatever necessary to ensure that our clients have the financial resources needed to repair and replace their damaged property and move on with their lives.
In the event that your insurance carrier refuses to fully and timely compensate you for ALL your damages, we’ll immediately begin preparing your case for trial, while our team of leading expert appraisers, former insurance adjusters, and contractors itemize and prove the repair or replacement cost of your damages.
All consultations are free and because we only represent clients on a contingency fee basis, you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.
Call our Undefeated Hurricane & Flood Damage Attorneys at 1-888-603-3636 or by filling out the “Contact Us” form on this page.