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How to File Flood Insurance Claims

If your home has just suffered through a flood, not only will you need to mop up the mess, dry out the home, and repair the water damage, you’ll have to figure out whether or not your insurance company will pay the bill. Insurance companies do cover some types of water damage while excluding other types making it hard for the average homeowner to figure out who should pay.

The first step is to determine if you have insurance for the water damage in the first place. When it comes to water damage claims, two types of insurance are usually involved: standard homeowners insurance policies and National Flood Insurance Program flood insurance policies.

Your standard homeowners insurance policy typically covers water damage claims such as:
• Burst pipes
• Overflowing sinks
• Overflowing bathtubs
• Appliance mishaps such as broken washing machine hoses
• Leaking roofs

However, this same insurance policy won’t cover specific types of water damage such as from sewer backups or overflowing rivers. In the case of sewer backups, you may be able to purchase an endorsement or rider that adds some coverage. In the case of natural floods, you will need flood insurance.

Once you have determined the cause of the flood, you will know who to call, your homeowners insurance company or the National Flood Insurance Program (assuming you have flood insurance).

Filing a water damage claim starts out easily enough. You should have an 800 number on your policy specifically for claims. You may have a separate number for filing flood insurance claims. In addition, you may be able to file a claim on your insurance company’s Web site if available. Simply provide the insurance carrier with the necessary information surrounding your water damage claim and the process begins.

Now, it gets tricky. You are responsible for the “burden of proof” – that is you must prove your loss. This involves taking pictures, separating damaged items from non-damaged items, and documenting everything. Your insurance adjuster may not arrive in time to see standing floodwaters so take lots of pictures and video (inside and out) to back up your claim. Take photos of water levels, structural damage, damaged contents, and so on.

Do not throw away damaged items unless they pose a health hazard. Even then, take photos before discarding and take samples such as fabric swatches as further proof. In addition to photos and other documentation, you must provide an itemized list of all damaged or lost items including the value of these items.

Finally, a “proof of loss” form is usually required. In the case of filing National Flood Insurance Program claims, this proof of loss form must be submitted to the National Flood Insurance Program within 60 days. For standard homeowners insurance water damage claims, you may need to fill out a similar form depending on the procedures of your insurance carrier.

When filing water damage claims, don’t forget to include receipts and seek reimbursement for emergency water damage repairs, temporary lodging, and other related expenses.

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