When hurricanes make landfall, flooding tops the list of potential dangers that come with them. Flooding from hurricanes comes from two sources: storm surge and rainfall. When Hurricane Laura came ashore in August 2020, the storm surge along the coastline was predicted to reach between 15 and 20 feet high and could reach as far as 40 miles inland, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The organization further stated floodwaters would take days to recede. Coupled with heavy rainfall, that water has nowhere to go, leading to flooding in homes, businesses and vehicles.
If your vehicle is caught up in flooding from a hurricane, it could sustain substantial damage, not only from water, but also mold, bacteria and even being pushed into hard structures such as trees and buildings. Your car could sustain further water damage from flooding to the car’s engine and electrical systems, rendering it inoperable.
If your vehicle is damaged due to flooding from a hurricane, you may be able to have it repaired by filing a claim with your car insurance company. However, not all insurance coverage applies to damages to a car due to flooding, so it’s important to know what types of coverage you have and if it will pay for damages your car sustains due to flooding from a hurricane.
Does My Car Insurance Cover Damages to My Car Due to Flooding?
The type of car insurance coverage you have determines if damages to your car will be covered due to flooding from a hurricane. “Flood damage to vehicles is typically covered under an auto policy if the policyholder has purchased comprehensive physical damage coverage,” says Robert Passmore, vice president of auto and claims policy for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.
Comprehensive car insurance covers damage to your car from events “other than collisions,” according to the Insurance Information Institute. This includes natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It also includes damages due to contact with animals, fire, riots and vandalism, theft, broken windshields, and fallen objects such as tree branches, ice or projectiles.
Not all drivers are required to have comprehensive car insurance coverage. It is often required by lenders if the car is financed, but, otherwise, comprehensive car insurance coverage is an optional purchase. If you have an older car, it may not be worth paying for comprehensive car insurance coverage because the car’s value is too low to warrant coverage.
What Should I Do If My Car Gets Flooded During a Hurricane?
If your car gets flooded during a hurricane, first and foremost wait for all the water to drain from the car. Also, take care when trying to see if the car will start. “Be cautious about attempting to start a vehicle that has been exposed to flood waters during a hurricane,” Passmore says. “The electrical system of a car is the most sensitive to water damage, and trying to start the car could cause more damage. A good rule of thumb is if the water got above the floorboards or if the seats or air filter are wet, do not try to start the car.”
After a cursory evaluation of your car, contact your car insurance company or agent to report the damage. “If your car gets flooded during a hurricane, contact your auto insurer as soon as possible to report the damage,” Passmore says. “Keep in mind the damage is only covered if you have purchased comprehensive coverage under your auto policy, so check with your auto insurer to see what coverage you have.”
Also, take steps to make sure your car won’t sustain additional damage. “You should protect the vehicle from further damage, such as by covering any broken windows,” Passmore says. This will help keep out additional rainfall, and can help prevent leaves and other debris from collecting in your car.
How Can I File a Claim if My Car Is Flooded?
The first step in filing a claim is to talk with your car insurance company or agent. They will let you know what documentation you will need to file your claim. This includes providing your personal information along with information on the car. You also should take photos of the car documenting the damage it sustained. If you have any “before” photos of the car, it might help to submit those as well.
If your car washed away in the floodwaters from a hurricane, you still may be able to file a claim. “If your vehicle is missing, report it to the police,” Passmore says. Get a copy of the police report to file with your claim.
Depending on your individual car insurance company, you should be able to file your claim in a number of ways. These include in person, by telephone, by email, online, using a smartphone app or by mail. Once your claim is filed, many car insurance companies update your claim status online and in their smartphone apps, so you can track its progress.
The Bottom Line
If your car insurance includes comprehensive coverage, your car insurance policy should cover damages to your car resulting from flooding. Speak to your car insurance company or agent to find out exactly what your car insurance covers and how to file a claim for repairs or replacement.
(Photo by Chris Sadowski / Getty Images)