Often, the aftermath of a flood can be just as chaotic as the event itself. Whether you’ve been rendered homeless by floodwaters, or are wading through ankle-deep waters filled with floating possessions, it’s an uncertain and unsettling situation to say the least. You’re pretty sure your flood insurance will cover the damage, but it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve put together this simple guide to help you kick the claims process into gear and start putting your life back together.
Begin the Claims Process by Contacting Your Insurer
The first thing you need to do is pick up the phone and call your insurance company or agent to report the loss. It’s a good idea to have the following information handy:
- Policy Declarations page – This is the official document detailing your coverage that you received upon signing up for flood insurance.
- Your contact information – Any and all phone numbers or alternate contact numbers, email addresses, etc.
- Your property location – Be as specific as possible including street address, counties, townships, landmarks, etc.
- Contact information for other interested parties – This would include your mortgage lender, for example, as well as other parties you might still owe money to even if your home has been destroyed.
Normally, an insurance adjuster will contact you within a few days. These adjusters work with your insurance company and are available to work with you free of charge. If you haven’t heard from an adjuster, call the insurer or agent handling your flood insurance claim, once more.
If you have your policy written directly with the NFIP (you’ll know because your Declaration Page will have the FEMA logo in the top corner), you can start the process through the NFIP’s Direct Servicing Agent
Take Inventory of the Damage
Next, take photos and video of the damage. In particular, make sure you capture the make, model, and serial number of larger items such as televisions, computers, washers, dryers, etc.
We recommend utilizing FEMA’s flood claim inventory list to help keep track of all the things you’re going to want to bring to the adjuster’s attention. This list also organizes everything by room, which makes it easier to catalogue your possessions and will also help the adjuster put together their estimate. If possible, obtain samples of flooring, carpeting, wallpaper, and any drapes that may have been damaged.
Photographic evidence might also make you eligible for advance payments. The amount received could be up to $20,000 and that’s before the adjuster even sets foot on your property.
Clean Up What You Can
Although it’s tempting to do a massive cleanup to get things back to normal as soon as you can, you should hold off on any major cleaning until you’ve consulted the adjuster or the insurance company. That said, remember that your NFIP policy will not cover damage from mold and it’s up to you, while waiting for the adjuster, to minimize the spread of any mold. Be sure to throw out any perishable food items or personal items like clothing, cushions, or pillows.
If your home’s electrical, water, or HVAC systems were damaged, you don’t need to wait to contact the appropriate services.
Meet Your Adjuster
Your adjuster will schedule an appointment with you and identify themselves by showing official identification (Flood Control Number, Company ID, or Driver’s License). While going through the NFIP will minimize the chances of fraud, you can never be too careful. Aside from presenting the proper ID, a real adjuster working with your insurance company will never ask for a fee or offer to collect your deductible amount. An adjuster also does not have the power to approve your claim, that’s up to the insurance company.
Your adjuster will walk you through the NFIP Flood Claims Process as well as your policy coverage, how to present the extent of the damage to your insurer, and your eligibility for any advance payments. They will then conduct a thorough inspection of the property. You’ll want to provide any samples of carpeting and flooring as well as photographs and video. You should also ask about the possibility of Increased Cost of Compliance, which provides additional funding should your reconstruction or repairs include measures to either prevent or reduce the damage of future flooding.
Prepare the Proof of Loss
Lastly, your adjuster will assist you in preparing your proof of loss documentation. This document will combine the findings of the adjuster’s inspection with everything you’ve put together—your inventory, photos, video, flooring samples, etc.—in order to submit an accurate estimate of your flood loss.
While it can seem overwhelming, it’s important to get the claims process started as soon as you are able. You have a 60-day window to file for your flood losses. And, once you are agreed with the insurer on the amount in the Proof of Loss, all that’s left is your signature. Once that’s done you just need to contact your insurer for the next steps on rebuilding your home while you wait for the check to come in.
Don’t Forget about Federal Disaster Assistance
If a Presidential Disaster Declaration has been granted to you and other survivors in the flooded area, you may be eligible for federal disaster assistance. You will need to apply in order to know for certain. If found eligible, this could help mitigate the chaos by helping to pay for temporary housing assistance (something you won’t find in your flood insurance policy).