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Post-Florence Cleanup Insurance Guide

Storm survivors begin assessing property damage and filing claims

The home of Kenny Babb is surrounded by water as he retrieves a paddle that floated away while the Little River continues to rise in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Linden, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018

David Goldman/AP

Outside his home in Linden, N.C., on Tuesday, Kenny Babb retrieves a paddle that floated away, as the Little River continues to rise in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

En español | As the Carolinas contend with catastrophic flooding after Hurricane Florence, many residents are dealing with property damage, as well as beginning the insurance claims process or securing federal disaster relief funds.

Because the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief program (you can register here to sign up for assistance) is designed to address damage not covered by insurance or other means, most of those in need of help will likely begin with an insurance claim.

Damage to homes

Generally, homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Affected homeowners will need to use flood insurance policies (commonly purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program but also available through private insurers) to recoup repair costs.

To get started, contact your agent or insurer. Get a claim number and ask about the next steps. An adjuster will schedule an appointment within 24 to 48 hours.

Once you can safely enter your property, take photos and/or video of damaged items that you can show to the adjuster. Video-record or photograph the interior and exterior of your home, and be sure to document the serial number, make and model of affected appliances. The National Flood Insurance Program also advises policyholders to get samples of damaged carpet, drapes, wallpaper and the like before inspection. Get rid of items that pose a health risk, such as perishable food, after documenting them.

When the adjuster arrives, ask for official identification and contact information. Do not allow an individual who can’t provide proper credentials to enter your property. The adjuster will take measurements, notes and photos in order to come up with a room-by-room estimate of damage. He or she will also provide you with a proof-of-loss form. If you agree with the estimate, sign and send the form to your insurance company within 60 days of the loss.

Catastrophic events may delay claims processing, and the timeline for issuing payment can vary by insurer, so be patient but vigilant about keeping in touch with your insurer. (If you discover additional damage or repairs cost more than expected, you can still file for additional payment. Contact your insurer or adjuster for additional details.)

If you and an adjuster can’t agree on a settlement amount, you may need to contact the adjusting firm or your insurer’s claims department. FEMA offers a guide on how to reach an agreement.

Whether or not you have flood insurance, register with FEMA. You may be eligible for federal help with losses that either aren’t covered (like moving and storage expenses) or that exceed your coverage.

Damaged or missing cars

To address flooding damage to your car, you’ll need to carry comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, a majority of drivers do carry this type of coverage. But if you’re unsure, call your agent or insurance company to determine.

In general, serious flood damage to your car will result in the declaration of a total loss. Once water reaches your car's engine and electrical systems, the cost of repair likely exceeds the vehicle's value.

No matter what type of damage your car sustained, contacting your agent or company is the first step in filing a claim, and you’ll want to do so as soon as possible after the storm.

As with a home-related claim, start by documenting the damage to the interior and exterior of your vehicle. In particular, you’ll want to note the waterline, or the highest level the water reached in your vehicle (typically it's easily visible in the car’s interior — there may be a ring of mud or other debris).

When in doubt, do not try to start a car that you believe has sustained water damage to the engine. A good rule of thumb: If water rose past the bottom of the car doors — say, for example, your floorboards are wet — do not try to start it.

Your insurer may also provide instructions on how to avoid further damage, for instance, by using a tow service to move the car. After submitting your claim, the agent or adjuster will work with you to determine your compensation. Money may be provided for repairs, or, in the case of a total loss, you’ll be issued a payment for your car’s value, minus the deductible.

Have you returned home but can’t find your car? Do not put yourself in harm’s way by trying to find it, especially if floodwaters are still present. Since flooded cars are often towed, reach out to police and local agencies that are working on the cleanup. They’ll be able to tell you where to look for your car.

No insurance

If you are a homeowner without flood insurance or someone without comprehensive coverage for your car, home disaster loans from the Small Business Association (SBA) are available to help repair or replace damaged real estate and personal property — including vehicles. Homeowners without flood insurance may also be eligible for FEMA grants.

To get help, ask about an SBA loan when you register with FEMA, call the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955, or apply online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Local resources

In the immediate aftermath, disruptions such as road closures, curfews and power outages can pose additional challenges. State and local agencies may also begin to offer grants and other recovery services. Stay updated about local options for near- and long-term assistance by visiting your state’s disaster response website.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety is operating a page with Post-Florence updates, including shelter information and contact information for county emergency management agencies.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division is also compiling information related to the storm — and options for recovery — online

More Post-Hurricane Information

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