Flooded? It’s time to tackle insuranceSubmitted by Korhorn Financial Group, Inc. on March 2nd, 2018
It’s been quite a week in Indiana.
First, the unseasonal warming trend delivered a ton of snowmelt. Then we were hit with inches (and inches!) of rain. And it all happened long before the ground had thawed enough to take in that amount of water. The result was what insurance companies are now calling the “500 Year Flood.”
Like everyone I know, I was amazed at the scenes I witnessed all around me. I never thought I’d see the river in South Bend cover my friend’s front yard—completely. Or that my husband and I would find ourselves bailing out our church, which is nowhere near a flood zone. Or that our own home, which is about a mile away from the river, would ever see water seeping in through the floorboards. But the unthinkable happened, and our entire community is now struggling with the aftermath.
As an insurance agent, that recovery includes helping our clients navigate the claims process. It’s just about the last thing anyone wants to deal at the moment, but it’s vital—especially if your damage was extensive. Here are three rules of thumb to help ease the way:
- Before cleaning up, record the damage. No one wants to live with the mess of water damage, so your first impulse may be to start hauling away soggy carpets. Before you jump into cleanup mode, take the time to carefully record the damage. Smartphones make it easy to take photos and videos of the damage, both of which can be extremely valuable during the claims process. Document what belongings were destroyed, including everything from appliances and carpets to furniture and Christmas decorations. Then make a detailed list of the damage and estimate replacement costs, using your photos and videos as evidence.
- Call your agent to understand what’s covered and what isn’t. Water losses can be tricky because how the water enters the home will determine if it is a flood claim or a “water backup” claim. A good agent can walk you through your policy and help you estimate your damage, compare that estimate to your deductible, and determine if there is a viable claim to file. Keep in mind that you may be covered even if you don’t have flood insurance. Depending on how the water entered or the type of water that entered, some companies may pay for claims for water backup coverage if you carry it. Again, talk to your agent for guidance.
- Don’t wait to file a claim. If your agent recommends filing a claim, don’t wait! Just as the rush on sump pumps and Shop-vacs became an exercise in ‘survival of the fittest’ during the flood, insurance companies have been inundated with claims, making it critical that you file as soon as possible to avoid an unfortunate delay in processing. We’ve even seen some insurance companies cut off their wait lists due to the sheer volume of claims activity. The sooner you can grab your space in that long and growing line, the better.
Even if you are one of the lucky few who isn’t busy bailing out water and ripping out wet carpeting, seeing others go through it likely has you wondering, “what’s next?” None of us has the power to keep the flooding from happening again, but here are a few steps you can take today to help plan for the next “500 year flood” that comes our way:
- Get a generator or battery backup for your sump pump. During flood conditions, it’s vital to keep your sump pump working to keep your home as dry as possible. A generator or battery backup can save the day (and your home!) if your electricity goes out.
- Rethink your basement situation. A finished basement can create wonderful extra space in your home, but recognize that everything in that space may be susceptible to flooding. If you’re using the room as storage, try to get things off the ground to protect them, and rethink furnishing the basement with items that can’t be replaced, such as antiques or family heirlooms. Take pictures before water damage happens to use as evidence for a potential claim down the road, and be sure you have enough water backup coverage to really cover the costs of replacing furnishings, appliances, and other belongings if a flood occurs. A finished basement can create wonderful extra space in your home, but recognize that everything in that space may be susceptible to flooding. If you’re using the room as storage, try to get things off the ground to protect them, and rethink furnishing the basement with items that can’t be replaced, such as antiques or family heirlooms. Take pictures before water damage happens to use as evidence for a potential claim down the road, and be sure you have enough water backup coverage to really cover the costs of replacing furnishings, appliances, and other belongings if a flood occurs.
- Reevaluate your insurance coverage. Talk to your agent to determine if you have appropriate coverage and the right deductible for your needs. Knowing that the water backup coverage in your standard policy may not cover water damage resulting from cracks in your foundation or water coming up through your sump pump hole, you may want to obtain additional coverage. If you live in a non-flood zone, flood insurance isn’t required, but the extra few-hundred dollars a year in annual premiums may give you peace of mind now that we’ve all seen what is possible.
If I’ve learned one lesson from the events of the past week, it’s that our Indiana weather is even more unpredictable than I ever imagined (and I already thought it was pretty darned unpredictable!). The good news is that insurance is designed to help pay for the “big things” like last week’s flood, which means you’re covered as long as you have the right policy in place before you need it. Know that insurance policies are available for almost every “big thing” out there, including floods, earthquakes, personal injury, and more. It’s all a matter of balancing risk, premium costs, and the comfort that comes with having the peace of mind that you’re covered even in a worst-case scenario.
If you have any questions about your current coverage, what coverage you should have moving forward, or anything else regarding protecting your home, your family, and your assets, please reach out. Our experienced team is always here to help.