Hurricane Irene has homeowners scrambling to review their insurance policies to take a closer look at their coverage, but all too many are discovering that they are not protected from the damage that results from flooding during this type of storm.
This is the painful reality that thousands of people are facing as they clean up their flooded basements and work to repair other damage relating to flooding.
Coverage for water damage is dependent on the source of the flooding. The typical homeowners policy will cover water and structural damage if it is caused by a fallen tree or high winds that have broken a window or damaged the roof so that rain is allowed to enter. However, in the case that flooding occurs due to rising water, neither the home nor its contents are covered.
Rising water refers to water that comes up from the ground which is saturated, allowing water to enter through the floor of the basement, or storm surges that bring water into homes located near beaches.
Unfortunately Irene’s impact on the East Coast had more to do with flood damage than wind damage in the majority of areas. Homes and businesses located further inland were among those that experienced the worst damage from the rains, as a result of flash floods.
Those homeowners may still be facing repair costs from their own pockets if claims adjusters decide that flooding was the cause of the water damages.
The insurance industry also anticipates that this will cause homeowners – affected or not – to have a second look at their coverage and consider separate flood insurance policies to make sure they’re protected against the next storm. According to the president of the Insurance Information Institute, Robert Hartwig, “Nothing sells flood insurance like a flood.”
That said, covered or not, insurance companies are working at full capacity to try to help individuals to understand their policies, deal with the damage when they are covered, and sell additional coverage when that is what the customer wants. As a result, as many customers prepare to battle their insurance companies in order to make sure that they are receiving whatever coverage they possibly can, they are finding that their first struggle is being able to reach their insurance companies in the first place.
That said, it isn’t for lack of effort on the part of the insurers, which have rushed as many additional adjusters as possible to the areas that were hardest hit by the storm. For example, as soon as it was safe to do so, Allstate brought 16 mobile claim centers and over 1,000 adjusters into the areas that were most heavily affected.