RICHMOND, Va. -- In the wake of recent flooding in western Virginia, some people are surprised to find their insurance does not cover flood damage to their home, business or belongings. In the last four years the area has seen as many as six presidential disaster declarations, and four of those have been due to flooding.
“Standard homeowner and renter insurance policies do not cover flood damage,” said Lou Botta, federal coordinating officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
For that reason Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968. The insurance is available to residents of communities enrolled in NFIP. Since its inception, almost 20,000 communities in the United States have joined the program, 270 of them are in Virginia.
You may purchase flood insurance even after your home, apartment or business has been flooded. There is a 30-day waiting period after you’ve enrolled before the policy is effective.
“You don’t have to be in a floodplain to get NFIP flood insurance,” explained Botta. “Twenty-five to 30 percent of all covered claims come from low to moderate risk areas.”
Basic flood insurance policies cover structural damage, including permanent attachments, such as furnaces and hot water heaters. Other contents can be covered for additional fees. Flood insurance can cover either the cash value of property lost to flood or replacement costs. Rates vary based on location and potential for flood damage.
Those who purchase flood insurance should develop written and photographic inventories that detail insured possessions. Such records should be kept in a secure place. For more information about the NFIP, call (800) 638-6620 or your insurance company. You may also find additional information at www.floodalert.fema.gov
If your home or business suffered damage as a result of the November 18 – 19 flooding in the western portions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, you should contact your insurance agent and begin the claims process. Keep receipts from any expenses you incurred in protecting the property or in making temporary repairs. Do not make permanent repairs until your insurance adjuster has made an inspection. However, you can make temporary repairs. For example, if you had floodwater in your home, remove the wet carpeting, dry wall and insulation. Keep samples of discarded items such as damaged carpet to show the adjuster. Keep an inventory of your damaged property, take pictures or videotape the damage, if possible. You are obligated by policy terms to protect your home and property from further damage.
Each policy has information about your obligations as the insured in the claims process and what to do if you are unable to come to an agreement with your insurance company. It is important to work with your adjuster for a smooth claims settlement. However, if you are unable to come to an agreement with your adjuster, you should ask to have your claim reviewed by the adjuster’s supervisor. If you are unable to resolve your flood insurance claim, notify your insurance company and request the NFIP to assign a general adjuster to review your claim.
You can find information about handling insurance claims, other than flood-related insurance claims, by going to the Virginia Bureau of Insurance website at: www.state.va.us/scc/division/boi, or by calling 1-877-310-6560 or 1-804-371-9185. There is a wealth of information to assist you in settling your claim and information on how to get assistance from the Bureau of Insurance should you have any difficulties.
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