Flooding or water damage can occur anytime without notice, and depending on the type of loss, it is often quite difficult to identify damages. It is also the most common type of loss, and may occur due to various incidents, including water pipe breakage, appliance leaks, sewage backup, or wind driven rain entering through a roof after a storm, all of which are covered under a standard property policy. The wording of the conditions of an insurance policy can be extremely confusing for those unfamiliar with the insurance claims process. Since adjusting water or flood losses is highly technical and can affect the final decision on your claim settlement, it is beneficial to work with a public adjuster with proper expertise in order to be fairly compensated for a loss.
What to Do if Your Business or Property Suffers Water Damage
Immediately after a water leak or flood loss, it is essential to preserve the property from further damage by beginning the removal and dry out process right away. A public adjuster can guide you through the process, as the steps followed within the first 24 hours after a loss can dramatically affect the final result of your claim. Insurance company adjusters typically attempt to save time and financial resources for the insurance company by neglecting to follow certain procedures in preserving the property, which may be costly for the insured. For example, the removal of baseboards will allow air to circulate throughout the walls of a building and the removal of carpet will prevent mold growth. These are critical measures that may not be followed by insurance company adjusters.
Since insurers are mostly concerned with their own cost and budget restraints, you may consider hiring an independent company that specializes in water extraction or restoration, as opposed to working with a contractor provided to you by the insurance company. Your carrier may not provide you with the best choices for independent contractors. Nevertheless, it is important NOT to sign any work authorization forms without prior approval for the charges by your insurer or their representative. A public adjuster can guide you through this process.
Next, you must determine the extent of the damages by using proper equipment to help identify the exact location of the water, such as moisture detectors. Your insurance company’s adjuster may not follow this procedure properly, and as a result, the restoration of the property and payment of your claim may be negatively impacted. It is also important to disinfect areas that may be at risk of forming bacteria, fungi, or mildew. Mold provisions and limitations typically exist within standard policies, which can significantly affect the property’s restoration.
Since water damage is the most common type of loss and creates the greatest burden on insurance companies, many insurers exercise measures to shift the responsibility to the policyholder, such as writing conditions in the policy stating that water damages not reported within 14 days cannot be covered. The exact age of water damage can be difficult to prove, and therefore it is important to read and understand the various provisions and conditions of your policy.
Flooding is a peril that has previously been considered uninsurable among private insurance companies, due to high risk and exposure. As a result, most standard property policies nowadays do not cover flood damage. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was created in 1968 to allow home and business owners to purchase separate flood policies from private insurers in addition to their standard property coverage. According to NFIP, the definition of flood is “a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more areas of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is your property) from an overflow of inland or tidal waters; unusual and rapid accumulation or run-off of surface waters from any source; mud flow.”
Just like other standard property policies, flood policies also have extensive provisions and limitations that can affect the outcome of a claim settlement. For example, FEMA and NFIP have certain rules and guidelines that must be followed if you decide to use a water restoration dry-out company. It is also important to be mindful of the 60 day deadline for filing a flood claim, which can create enormous pressure on a policyholder to submit all documentation in a timely manner. You must thoroughly read and understand your flood policy before a loss occurs.
After any flood or natural disaster, insurance carriers will be bombarded with numerous claims, and as a result, long wait times may exist before insurance company adjusters can evaluate the nature and extent of your damages. Hiring public adjusters who can dedicate their time to assisting and advising you regarding your specific needs will significantly reduce waiting time and ensure that you maximize the benefits that you are entitled to receive.