How the flood claims process works

Mon Oct 24 2022

A close-up of a flooded kitchen floor

Getting your life back in order after a flood can be daunting enough. The last thing you want to do is to spend a ton of time trying to understand the ins and outs of how your insurance claim will be paid. So let’s simplify it and take a look at how to file a flood insurance claim.

How to file a flood insurance claim

Every insurance company has its own method for filing flood claims. We’re hoping this high-level breakdown of how the flood claims process works can help you more easily navigate your own insurer’s procedures.

Contact your flood insurer

Before you do anything, your first step should be to call your flood insurance company and alert it about the water damage to your home. That will initiate the paperwork you must complete and the adjustor’s visit so that you can get your insurance check as quickly as possible.

Typically, you have up to 60 days after a flood to file your claim, but you don’t want to delay communicating with your insurance company. Letting your insurer know about damage gets you the paperwork you need to move forward and helps ensure a covered claim is paid out quickly.

You should also give your mortgage provider a call. The settlement for your claim may be paid out to both you and your mortgage company, depending on the terms of your mortgage.

Mitigate your damages

Your home insurance policy includes language that requires you to mitigate your damages. This means you have to do your best to minimize your losses. For example, you may be able to:

  • Stop water from coming in. If your home is already flooding, this might be difficult. But don’t worry, people at your insurance company typically understand this and want you to be safe.
  • Protecting your personal property. Where you can make a big impact is by moving personal items to higher levels in your home or up on countertops.

The most important thing to remember is to stay safe. Do not go into your home until authorities allow it, and avoid coming into contact with floodwaters. It’s often contaminated and may hide other dangers.

Document your damages

Your insurer will likely require some documentation before it can process your claim. The better your paper trail, the easier the flood claims process will be. (This is actually a pretty good rule to follow for most insurance claims!)

You will need to document the following:

  1. Loss of property. No matter how damaged, it is important to itemize every item affected by the flood on paper and via photograph for your records. This proves your losses and your required repairs or replacements. It also serves as evidence if you need to dispute your adjustor’s findings later on.
  2. Repairs. You also want to document repairs once they’re underway. This allows you to contact your mortgage company and get the maximum amount of payout from the escrow allotted to your mortgage company (more on that soon).
  3. Contact information. Keep contact information for anyone working on your home repairs in case your insurer needs to contact them.

Expect the adjuster

Your insurer will likely send a claims adjuster to assess your property losses. The adjuster’s job is to determine the damages that you’ve experienced. Typically, that means walking around your property and looking at what was destroyed or needs repair. Your adjuster might also use a tool called a moisture meter to determine how high the floodwaters rose in your home.

If possible, keep damaged items available for the adjuster to review. If you must get rid of items for safety purposes, be sure to take pictures or videos of them. Remember that your documentation can help the adjuster make the right decisions about your claim.

Once your property has been inspected, you can negotiate with the adjustor to submit an insurance claim.

Get the payout

Though the exact process for your claims settlement depends on your insurance provider, the general payout process works like this:

  • Your mortgage company gets a check for damage to the house. If you have a mortgage, the check for home repairs may be made out to both you and the mortgage lender. This condition is typically part of your mortgage contract and helps the lender ensure the repairs are made. Your lender will usually put the money in escrow to cover repairs as work is completed.
  • You get a check for damaged personal belongings. Your insurance company will initially send a check for the actual cash value of the damaged items, even if you have replacement cost insurance.
  • You get the remainder of your personal property settlement once you replace your items. If you have replacement cost coverage for your personal property, you’ll receive the full replacement cost of the items once you replace the damaged belongings and provide the receipts to your insurer.

As always, if you have questions during the claims process, call your agent or your insurer for assistance.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2018. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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