How to file a flood insurance claim

File folder with insurance tab

If you were fortunate enough to buy flood insurance before Hurricane Sandy struck, you probably purchased it through a local insurance agent.

But all policies actually are provided by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program and administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As a result, there is a standard procedure to follow when submitting a flood insurance claim.

Follow these tips to help the claim process go as smoothly as possible.

Tip 1. Contact your insurance agent. Take this step as soon as possible to get the ball rolling and get yourself in line to have a claims adjuster visit your property.

Tip 2. Separate your damaged property from your undamaged property. If you have coverage for personal property, try to keep all damaged property for the claims adjuster to evaluate.

If it represents a health hazard, photograph it and then dispose of it. If you don’t have a camera or want tangible evidence, keep small swatches of damaged items.

Tip 3. Make a detailed list of the damaged items. Descriptions should include all information that can be used to establish a value for the item, such as brand name, model number, serial number, description, cost, purchase location and any supporting documentation, such as receipts or pre-flood photos.

Tip 4. Take pictures. Photograph structural damage, evidence of how high floodwaters rose inside your property and anything else that will show flood damage and help to support your claim.

If you need to secure your property to prevent further damage, make sure to document the flood damage before beginning any temporary repairs.

Tip 5. Survey your property thoroughly. Within a few days of contacting your insurance agent, an adjuster will visit your property to examine your losses in person.

The adjuster will give you a detailed list of damages and repair cost estimates. Review the list and make sure it seems complete. Make sure to point out anything the adjuster might have missed while still on your property.

Tip 6. Get estimates from professional licensed contractors. If there are significant discrepancies between the adjuster’s estimates and the contractor’s estimates, you’ll want to talk to the adjuster before you file your claim or have any repair work done.

If the adjuster won’t budge, you can file a formal dispute with FEMA later, but make sure not to miss your claim deadline with your insurance company, which is typically 60 days from the date of loss.

The insurance company, not the adjuster, will approve or deny your claim and the payment amount.

You may receive an advance check for a portion of the insured loss to help pay for repairs almost immediately, or you may only receive payment after your claim is fully processed.

Also, keep in mind that what isn’t considered flood damage could be considered storm damage and be covered under your homeowners insurance policy. You may have more than one avenue for recouping your losses.

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