Support Your Clients After the Flood

After a devastating flood event, agents and their insurance carriers are often the first call a client will make to get the recovery process started.

It’s important to remember that this can be an overwhelming time for homeowners or business owners. As insurance agents, you are the front lines of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) customer experience. With patience and understanding, you can help clients navigate the claims process, helping them get back to their home and back to their life more quickly.

Filing a flood insurance claim

After experiencing a flood loss, clients will need to file a flood claim directly with their insurance agent or carrier. During this initial call, you can set expectations with clients about their coverage amount, deductibles, and what is and isn’t covered under their policy.

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You should also set expectations for the claims process, which includes the following steps:

  • 1) Clients should report their loss immediately to their insurance agent or insurance carrier.

    2) An adjuster should contact them within 24-48 hours. It may take longer, depending on the severity and scale of the flood event.

    3) They should have the following information available when reporting a claim:

    • Policy number or Policy Declarations Page, if available
    • How they can be reached via phone or email
    • The insured property location
    • The name of their mortgage company
  • 1) Clients should report their loss immediately to their insurance agent or insurance carrier.

    2) Take photos or videos of the outside and inside of the building, including damaged personal property, to provide to the adjuster. Label the photos by room before removing anything, including items of exceptional value. For items like washers & dryers, hot water heaters, kitchen appliances, TVs, and computers, photograph the make, model, and serial number.

    3) Clients may then remove the flood-damaged items:

    • For building items, retain samples such as carpet, wallpaper, and drapes for the adjuster’s inspection.
    • For personal property items, separate the damaged from undamaged items.
    • After photographing, immediately throw away flooded items that pose a health risk, such as perishable food items, clothing, cushions, pillows and the like.

    4)Contact repair services if the building’s electrical, water, or HVAC systems were damaged. However, clients should consult their adjuster or insurer prior to signing any agreement or contract with a cleaning, remediation, or maintenance contractor.

    5) Before starting repairs, contact community building department and floodplain administrator to determine if the property was substantially damaged and to secure the necessary building permits. If the property is substantially or repetitively damaged, they may qualify for Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage.

  • When the claims adjuster arrives, he or she should show your client their official identification, including a driver’s license and company identification.

    What your clients can expect from their adjuster:

    • An explanation of the NFIP flood claims process.
    • An inspection of the property, during which he or she will scope the loss by taking measurements and photos.
    • An explanation of what an advanced claims payment is and how, or if, your client can get one.
    • Information about how your client should present their loss to the insurance carrier, and a discussion about the policy coverage.

    It’s important to remind clients that the insurance carrier, not the adjuster, has the authority to approve their flood insurance claim.

    At the end of their inspection, the adjuster should provide clients with information about what they need to do and what will happen next. The adjuster will hand clients a physical copy of this information along with his or her contact information, including their name, email, phone number, and the name and phone number of their adjusting firm.

    The adjuster should never ask clients for money or collect their deductible amount.

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    The adjuster may assist your client in preparing a Proof of Loss for their official flood insurance claim.

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    A Proof of Loss is your client’s sworn statement of the amount that they are claiming, including necessary supporting documentation. It must contain the specific details set forth in the Claims Handbook. Clients will need to file their Proof of Loss to you or the insurance carrier within 60 days of the date of loss, unless extended by FEMA.

    Sometimes an insurance carrier will provide a partial claims payment. Most often, however, clients will receive their claims payment after their insurance carrier agrees on the amount of damage, and the carrier has your client’s completed and signed Proof of Loss. If there is a mortgage holder listed on the policy, their name will be on the claims payment check as well. If major catastrophic flooding occurs, it may take longer to process claims due to the volume of claims.

Registering for disaster assistance

In the event of a Presidential Disaster Declaration, NFIP policyholders are also eligible for Federal disaster assistance.

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NFIP policies do not cover additional living expenses, including temporary housing. If your clients qualify, FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program might be able to help. Likewise, they may qualify for a Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan. So, it’s important to encourage clients to register for assistance, even if they have flood insurance.

Registering online at DisasterAssistance.gov is the quickest way to register for FEMA assistance. If clients do not have access to the internet, they can register by calling 800-621-3362 or by visiting a local Disaster Recovery Center (DRC).

Once registered for disaster assistance, clients may be eligible for:

  • Temporary housing assistance: Money is available for hotels and motels or to rent a different place to live. Government-provided housing unit may be offered when rental resources are not available.
  • Home repair: Money is available for homeowners to repair disaster damages that are not covered by flood insurance.
  • Additional financial assistance: This includes medical, dental, funeral, transportation, moving and storage, and other expenses that are authorized by law.

Appealing a flood insurance claim

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If a client receives a denial letter for all or some of their flood insurance claim, or if they are unsatisfied with the amount offered for flood-loss repairs or replacements, FEMA encourages customers to continue working with their insurance agent or carrier.

Working with their adjuster and insurer, clients can clarify how the flood insurance policy applies to their claim and take immediate action if a key fact or document was overlooked, or a mistake was made.

If they are still not satisfied, you can encourage clients to explore other options, including filing a claim appeal.

To avoid claims appeals, it’s important to set expectations with clients at the start of the claims process, and to ensure they have a clear understanding of their flood insurance coverage. Learn more about flood insurance Errors & Omissions lawsuits, including how to avoid common pitfalls.