Your Home or Business Flooded - So What's Next?
Experienced Attorneys in Texas
It has been years since Texas experienced the type of flooding we saw in
May. Texans are still picking up the pieces, and the damages to Texas
homeowners and businesses are estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
Damages range from minimal cosmetic issues to complete losses; some Texans
are still recovering from watching their homes flood or worse. Businesses
were hammered as well, resulting in disruption or complete shutdowns.
For those homeowners and businesses who have flood insurance, most policies
are controlled by the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”)
administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”).
And as you might imagine, NFIP has special rules for making claims.
How do I make a claim? You must first fill out a proof of loss with your
insurer. Typically, the deadline to file proof of loss forms is 60 days.
However, given the extensive flooding, FEMA extended the deadline to 240
days. You can read FEMA’s letter
here, which explains the basis for the extension.
What else should you do if your home or business flooded? Most of these
tips are obvious, but make sure you properly document the claim, and keep
- Make sure your belongings are out of the water, and cleaned. Flood water
is often contaminated with dangerous bacteria. Properly washing clothes,
dishes, and other items that you will come in close physical contact with
is essential. Disinfect everything with bleach, or hot water. The internet
is an excellent resource for figuring out how to disinfect different household
products. Make sure you spend some time cleaning those things that came
in contact with flood water that you intend to use again.
- Make sure you have shut off the gas and electricity if all or part of your
home or business have standing water. Be very careful around any exposed
cables or wiring, as these may pose electrocution hazards. If you have
questions about how to do this, please call your service providers before
trying to do anything yourself!
- Try to make an itemized list of things that were damaged or lost. Be as
complete as you can. There is no magic to the process –just write
these things down. Talk to friends and family members to help you ensure
the list is complete. If you have an idea of what the items cost, where
you bought them, or when you made the purchase, note that as well.
- Call your insurance agent right away. This person will let you know if
you have flood insurance, and what the applicable limits are. In many
cases, the most you can recover is $250,000, but there are some exceptions.
Your agent will know more.
- Perhaps the most important part - take photos and/or video of the damage
to your home. Document as much as you can. Pictures and video are your
best evidence of the extent of the loss. Make sure you photograph structures,
interior, and exterior, items that are no longer “useable,”
and do as good a job as you can getting it all documented. In this age
of smart phones, the cameras are quite useful, and do a perfectly fine
job of documenting losses.
- Clean up, and put your life back together. Insurance companies call this
“mitigation.” Make sure you are doing everything you can to
make your situation better, not worse. This includes making sure your
surroundings are safe. If you need to hire someone to make temporary fixes
before insurance can cover a loss, do so. Do not wait to put your life
- Keep a good file of everything you have documented for the insurer. Document
your telephone calls with them, and what they say – we promise you,
they do, too! That means keeping track of the time, date, and general
substance of your conversation. If you send them material, make a note
of how and when you sent the material, and make sure you receive confirmation
of the insurer’s receipt.
For other helpful information on filing your flood claim under a Standard
Flood Insurance Policy, click
If you have a Standard Flood Insurance Policy, you will need to file a
Proof of Loss with your insurance company. The Proof of Loss and all required
supporting documentation must be filed within 240 days of the flood for
victims of the May 2015 storms in Texas. This is required before the National
Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or insurance company will issue any payment. Click
here to learn more about the required Proof of Loss and to download the form.
- An adjuster will come visit your home to inspect the damage – this
person does not work for you or represent you. Their job is to assess
the damage for the insurer. The adjuster will rely on you to provide complete
and accurate information concerning the loss. Make sure you do as thorough
a job as you can in pointing out all damage, and the complete scope of
your loss. The adjuster will also conduct a physical in inspection of
the property – that’s quite normal.
- If you disagree with the amount of damage found by the insurance company’s
adjuster or the amount the insurance company is paying you for your damage,
do not sign the proof of loss attesting to those damages. If you have
doubts about it, don’t sign it. You are free to hire third party
contractors or professionals that can help you determine whether the proof
of loss is complete/accurate. Keep in mind, by signing a Proof of Loss,
you are swearing that the information provided is true and correct. For
flood claims from the May 2015 storms in Texas this must all be done within
240 days of the flood.
- As always, if you have any questions or concerns, contact the lawyers at
Daly & Black, P.C.