Disaster Consulting Services, LLC specializes in assisting those who have suffered losses as a result of flooding and who need help with their flood insurance claims. Our Flood Team can provide the information and experience you need to pursue your claim and can coordinate the professionals you need to maximize your recovery. We maintain a website with updated information, news, and resources specifically relating to Hurricane Ike flood claims. Click here to view this website. We also maintain a blog which reports current information on flood claims and addresses critical issues facing flood victims. Click here to view our blog. To view the primary website of Disaster Consulting Services, LLC, click here. For information on how to obtain a copy of "Your Guide to Handling Flood Insurance Claims", by Dennis Abbott and Samuel Bearman, click here.
Disaster Consulting Services, LLC offers a free initial consultation. Our Flood Team members will review your claim and will let you know if we can help. Our Team primarily works with experienced attorneys to maximize your flood claim and help collect the full amount due under your flood insurance policy. Don't accept a low ball offer and be unable to finish the repairs on your house or business. Only an experienced professional knows what your claim is worth and what is covered by your policy.
IMPORTANT FLOOD INSURANCE ISSUES
DO YOU NEED FLOOD INSURANCE?
Do you need flood insurance? If you ask your insurance agent this question, this may be interpreted to mean whether you are "required" to have flood insurance. Even though you may not be "required" to have flood insurance if your property is not located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), you may"need" flood insurance if you are located in an area which may be subject to flooding. Every year, many homes and businesses which are not located in SFHAs are flooded. In most cases, low cost flood insurance is available. How much insurance do you need? Again, this question may be interpreted to mean how much insurance is "required". Generally, you can purchase insurance to cover your mortgage to satisfy applicable legal requirements but often this does not fully protect you in the event of a loss. And, it may not allow you to recover the replacement cost of damage to your home. When you talk with your agent about flood insurance, make sure you discuss what you "need" rather than what is "required".
RELY ON YOUR POLICY - NOT THE ADJUSTER
Your insurance adjuster does not have the authority to waive or modify any term of your flood policy. Likewise, your insurance company claims representative does not have such authority. File your supplemental proof of loss before the deadline regardless of whether the adjuster or claims representative tells you that a supplement can be filed at any time or, that they have all the information they need to consider your supplement.
HAS YOUR PROPERTY BEEN "SUBSTANTIALLY DAMAGED?
Has your property been determined by your city or county to have sustained substantial damage as a result of flooding? This determination has serious consequences with respect to rebuilding your home or business but could entitle you to additional coverage under your flood policy.
PROOF OF LOSS REQUIREMENT
Do you know that you are required to file a Proof of Loss to receive payment on your flood claim? A Proof of Loss with supporting documentation must be filed within a certain time period or your claim will be barred.
REPLACEMENT COST OR ACTUAL CASH VALUE?
Do you know what you are entitled to receive under the terms of your flood policy? Generally, you receive the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of your contents loss. In regard to structures, you are either entitled to ACV or Replacement Cost Value (RCV) depending on the type of policy, structure and occupancy. You are also entitled to payments for the costs of removing debris.
STANDARD FLOOD INSURANCE POLICIES
Standard Flood Insurance Policies (SFIPs) provide the following coverages on dwellings: Coverage A - Structure; Coverage B - Contents; Coverage C - debris removal and loss avoidance measures; and, Coverage D - increased cost of compliance (commonly referred to as "ICC"). The maximum limits of liability are $250,000 on the structure, $100,000 on contents, and $30,000 on ICC claims. However, total amounts paid under Coverages A,C and D cannot exceed the statutory limit of $250,000. The General Property form, which applies to commercial buildings, provides the same coverages with maximum limits of $500,000 on the structure and $500,000 on contents, with all damages being payable at Actual Cash Value. Policies written for Condominium Associations (referred to as RCBAP policies) have maximum building limits of $250,000 per number of units or the replacement cost of the structure, whichever is less. It is important to know and remember that you must buy coverage for contents separately and an additional premium is charged for contents coverage. As mentioned above, you cannot buy "replacement" coverage for contents under an SFIP.
SUPPLEMENTAL CLAIM PROOF OF LOSS REQUIREMENTS
Some policyholders believe that if an initial POL is filed, this satisfies the requirement. It does not. If you request additional payments, you must support each request with a documented POL and it must be filed by the POL deadline. Recently, I read a letter from an adjuster to an insured enclosing a POL and stating that the claim would remain open for one year for supplemental claims. This statement is misleading and incorrect. In this case, if the policyholder later files a supplemental claim and it is not filed within the deadline, his claim will be barred. And, even though he was told by the adjuster that the claim would be open for a year, he has no right to sue the adjuster for the misrepresentations.
PRE-FIRM OR POST-FIRM?
If your house was constructed before December 31, 1974 or before the first Federal Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) went into effect in your community (whichever is later), your strucure is considered pre-FIRM. Otherwise, it is considered post-FIRM. There are important differences in coverages under the SFIP depending on whether your structure is pre-FIRM or post-FIRM. Make sure you ask your insurance agent about these coverages, especially about limitations on coverage for areas below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). In some instances, insureds do not realize that the first floor of their structure may be below the applicable BFE (even though it has been finished out and is being used for residential purposes) and there is limited coverage for building and contents damage.
CHECK THESE WEBSITES FOR IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON FLOOD INSURANCE:
Get your Proof of Loss form here:
General information on the National Flood Insurance Program: http://www.fema.gov/business/nfip/
Helpful articles and current information:
FEMA News Releases
Information on filing an appeal:
Information on mold:
Information on flood maps:
Information on property covered by your flood policy:
Information on Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) claims:
Coping with flood damaged property:
DISCLAIMER: Disaster Consulting Services, LLC, acts as a claims consultant. The consultation provided does not consist of legal advice. The consultation is a claims evaluation and may include recommendations and referrals to be performed by the policyholder. Disaster Consulting Services, LLC, does not represent any policyholder or submit any claim to the insurance company on behalf of any policyholder. Representation of a policyholder in the submission of a claim to an insurance company must be done either by a licensed Public Adjuster or an attorney. If you require legal advice or representation, consult the attorney of your choice.
If you have suffered a flood loss and have flood insurance, you must comply with certain important time deadlines. If you fail to meet these deadlines, your claim may be denied.
The clock is ticking on your claim. Even if the insurance company has assigned an adjuster to work on your claim, these deadlines still apply and cannot be waived by the adjuster or your insurance company. Only FEMA can waive or extend the deadlines. The most important deadline is the requirement to file a Proof of Loss within a certain period of days after your loss. Flood insurance policies require you to file a proof of loss with supporting documentation within 60 days after your flood loss. However, in regard to Sandy, FEMA has issued a conditional and partial waiver of the Proof of Loss Requirement and a one year extension for filing a Proof of Loss in the event the insured is seeking additional amounts. This conditional and partial waiver will permit the insurance company to adjust and pay a loss based on the evaluation of damage in the adjuster's report instead of the signed Proof of Loss.
If an insured disagrees with the amount of payment received, a signed proof of loss, with supporting documentation, must be filed within the one year extension
The conditional and partial waiver and one year extension of the Proof of Loss Requirements applies to all claims for damage arising out of Superstorm Sandy for the states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusettes, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine with dates of loss beginning October 25, 2012.
Even though an extension has been granted, you should file your proof of loss and supporting documentation as soon as possible if you are not satisfied with the payment you receive from your insurance company.
You must file your own proof of loss if you are claiming more than the adjuster has allowed on the estimate. And, you must provide documentation to support the additional amount you are claiming.
On March 17, 2009, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision which allowed a policyholder to file suit against a WYO carrier and its representatives for negligent misrepresentations that prevented the policyholder from renewing his flood insurance policy. The Court held that such actions concerned "insurance procurement" rather than "claims handling" and federal law did not preempt state law based procurement claims. see Campo v Allstate Insurance Company, 562 F.3d 751 (5th Cir. 2009). On July 16, 2009, FEMA gave notice of its intent to adopt, by regulation, a clarification of the preemption clause in response to the Campo decision. FEMA stated its intention that preemption should apply to policy issuance and the admisistration of flood policies, including renewal, rating, transfer, non-renewal, cancellation, or reformation. Insurance agent procurement disputes or any allegation of negligence on the part of the insurance agent related to procurement is not subject to preemption.
On April 9, 2009, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision holding that a policyholder cannot recover attorney fees in a case filed against private flood insurance companies (WYO carriers) for payments due under the SFIP. However, the Court held that attorney fees are recoverable under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) if the lawsuit is against the US government in cases where the SFIP is issued directly by FEMA. see Dwyer v Fidelity National Property & Casualty Insurance Company, 2009 WL 943951 (C.A.5 LA.). The Court further held that the insurance carrier had not waived its right to request an appraisal, noting that there is no stated time limit for invoking the appraisal clause, and remanded the case so that it could be submitted to the appraisal process as provided by the SFIP.