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What to Do in Hurricane Florence’s Aftermath

On behalf of Joel Rhine of Rhine Law Firm, P.C. posted October 19, 2018

The residents of North Carolina are beginning to piece together their lives after Hurricane Florence tore up the East Coast, claiming at least 43 lives on September 14, 2018. Countless trees are blocking roadways, making it difficult for homeowners to return to their properties to survey the damage and see what is salvageable. Officials are cautioning residents that five river gauges in North Carolina are still indicating major flood-stage waters, while an additional five are at moderate flood stage, meaning there is still potential for danger.

When making your way back to your home, safety should always be your first concern.

Before Making an Insurance Claim

It is important for homeowners to understand what their insurance policies cover. Most homeowners and renters policies cover property damaged by wind. So in the case of a hurricane destroying your roof, you would have coverage for your home and belongings that were damaged by rain.

But damage caused by floodwater is not covered under the standard homeowners or renters insurance policy. In most cases, flood insurance is purchased separately through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program or from a private insurer.

In addition, storm damage to your vehicles is normally covered under your auto insurance rather than your homeowners insurance. Knowing which policy will cover what damage will allow you to avoid wasted time contacting multiple insurance companies.

Making a Flood Insurance Claim

  1. Report your claim to your insurance company as soon as possible, as claims are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. You might not have information about the full scope of your loss, but getting the claim open, establishing a claim number, and having a point of contact at the insurance office can make the process less stressful.
  2. Keep detailed records of your contact with the insurance company. Write down your claim number and the name of any representatives to whom you speak, as well as the information discussed on each call. When possible, correspond via email to provide a good record of your interaction with agents and the information that was discussed.
  3. Keep all of your receipts and document any expenses related to your home or vehicle repairs, as well as your living expenses, while you are displaced from the hurricane damage. If your damage was caused by wind, your living expenses will likely be covered as well. For flooding, most living expenses are not covered. But keep all of your documentation and specifically ask your insurance agent about your particular policy coverage.
  4. When the claims adjuster arrives, ask if he or she is an employee of your insurance company or an independent adjuster. After natural disasters, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to use independent adjusters to decrease amount of time needed to process their policyholders’ claims. However, you will want to know if an independent adjuster has authorization to make claim decisions and payments on behalf of your insurance company. Also, ask for the in-house claims adjuster who will be managing your claim after the initial inspection in the event that you have questions during the processing of your claim.

When You Do NOT Have Flood Insurance

If you do not have flood insurance, you will still want to contact your homeowners or renters insurance company. Each company is different, and you will want to verify exactly what your policy will cover. Some companies will cover wind and water damage but not floodwater damage.

In addition, President Trump has declared certain counties to be disaster areas, which means that you might be able to receive assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). To see if you qualify for individual assistance, visit disasterassistance.gov and enter your address. There are also several mobile FEMA offices operating in the disaster areas that can offer assistance with processing a request.

Avoid the Scam Artists

Sadly, disasters of any kind become a target for scam artists. Beware of any contractor who is soliciting business door to door. If you have questions about a contractor, contact the Better Business Bureau or check online for recommended contractors in your area. Only work with licensed and insured contractors, and only sign an agreement after securing multiple estimates. Only provide a down payment once the entire scope of work is outlined in writing and you have confirmed that the contact information and business are legitimate.

If you have questions regarding damage from Hurricane Florence, or a contractor you are working with to complete repairs to your home, contact Rhine Law Firm, P.C., at (910) 772-9960. Our team offers decades of experience in protecting the rights of Wilmington residents, and we are available to meet in the evening or on the weekend upon request.

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