South Carolina Flooding – Now Come the Insurance Claim Challenges
Some of the news reports and photographs from South Carolina support the claims that this flooding event was indeed unprecedented and historic. The only thing close to this magnitude was the flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The flooding from Katrina was in large part a result of the levies being beached. The flood event in South Carolina is a result of record amounts of rain.
As of this posting date I have not seen any statistics on the percentage of property owners who have flood insurance. Let’s hope many did have the foresight to purchase flood insurance as a loss from flooding is almost universally excluded in standard property insurance policies. Typically, it is the homeowner (unless required to have flood insurance by a lender) who will make the decision to go without coverage. Some commercial property owners may have excess flood coverage or manuscripts forms with higher limits than the standard NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) policy.
If you are a property owner without flood insurance, there still may be some coverage if the water entered the property from above in the form of driving rain. So a close examination of the structures needs to under taken. Rain like the snow losses we worked in the northeast last winter can put stress on a roof causing openings that allow water to enter from above. Remember, water weighs 8lbs. per gallon, so weight can quickly add up causing opening in the roof. If the water entered from above, this type of loss should be covered under standard property policies. Remember, personal property is usually insured as a named peril, so you need to read your policy and understand what is and is not covered. If you have doubts, consult with your insurance agent, a public adjuster or attorney. The latter two will most likely review your policy for free.
If you have flood coverage and if there is an opening which allowed rainwater to enter from above, the good news is that your losses will be covered. The bad news is that you may have a fight on your hands as to which came first the rain from above or the rising water from below.
Finally, we urge all our readers to be careful signing water mitigation work authorizations from restoration and contractors. You need to read these contracts very closely and understand what you are signing. Some of the more common “sales” tactics we have seen is that a salesman will represent to you that the insurance company will take care of the bill or that they will work with the flood adjuster on the emergency services billing.
While this may work sometimes, we have seen many instances where the NFIP or the adjuster from your insurance carrier will decline to pay all or part of the bill. This is especially true if the bill is inflated. The insurance company will often say you signed the contract without their work authorization. Also, in an emergency, remember that you only need to sign a contract for the immediate water extraction and mitigation. This will give you time to get proper quotes for the restoration and repair work.
The best practice is to get the adjuster in front of the water mitigation company with you present and all agree on a scope and price of the loss. We will have more information as we get a better understanding of events on the ground from our team of adjusters once they are deployed. Right now life, health, and safety are the main priorities so listen and follow the direction of first responders and government officials.
As always, the professional public insurance adjusters at Tutwiler and Associates are here to help with any property insurance related questions you may have. Please call 800.321.4488 or contact a public adjuster to submit a question to one of our insurance claim experts.