Getting the Best Advice From Lawyers in New Orleans
When temperatures warm up through the spring and summer, the weather brings more than just sunshine.
It can also bring tropical storms, hurricanes, and floods.
Louisiana residents know that the ebb and flow of floodwaters are a way of life, so they try to protect themselves from destructive flooding.
Many residents buy flood insurance to cover property repairs, should flooding occur.
However, flood insurance policyholders are sometimes dismayed when insurance companies deny their claim.
When you’re dealing with flood cleanup and repair, you don’t need to struggle with an unfair insurance company.
A flood insurance attorney can often get the insurance company to pay your claim.
If you would like to speak to one of our skilled attorneys, call us for a free consultation.
For more information on Louisiana flood damage insurance claims, keep reading.
Water vs. Flood Damage
When your home experiences flooding, the source of the water can have a significant impact on your insurance claim.
Water damage in New Orleans can result from broken plumbing, an overflowing toilet, a burst water heater, or other appliance issues.
This damage is usually covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy.
On the other hand, New Orleans, LA, flooding caused by natural disasters such as tropical storms and hurricanes is not covered under a typical homeowners insurance policy.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines a flood as “a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas from”:
- The overflow of inland or tidal waters,
- The unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, or
This definition means that a flood has to stem from a body of water and impact a general area.
A plumbing mishap that damages your house is not a flood.
While you may be able to file a claim on your homeowner’s insurance policy for water damage, you need flood insurance to cover flood damage.
What Is Flood Insurance?
Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage.
For Louisiana flood damage insurance, you have to buy a separate policy.
Flood insurance policies are regulated by the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which aims to provide affordable flood insurance.
Flood insurance rates are locked by the federal government and do not vary between insurance companies.
NFIP partners with agents in Louisiana to sell flood insurance.
NFIP offers these types of flood insurance:
- Homeowners flood insurance covers the structure and belongings, up to $250,000 for the home and $100,000 for the home’s belongings; and
- Commercial property policies cover up to $500,000 in building damage and $500,000 for the building’s contents.
You purchase flood insurance policies for the structure and the contents of a building separately.
You must meet separate deductibles for these types of damage as well.
In addition to NFIP policies, you can buy private flood insurance. Private policies may not be offered in all areas, but where available, they provide some advantages.
For instance, many private flood policies cover temporary housing while you repair your home.
You can obtain standalone or excess private flood insurance.
Excess insurance provides additional coverage to an NFIP policy.
Understanding the National Flood Insurance Program
Many homeowners rely on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for flood insurance, including flooding caused by hurricanes.
An NFIP policy may be required if the property is in a high-risk flood zone and is mortgaged through a federally-regulated or federally-insured lender.
Properties in moderate- or low-risk flood zones may not require flood insurance, but many residents in these areas obtain such insurance in case of a hurricane.
In addition to flood insurance through the NFIP, some private insurers also provide flood insurance.
Flood Insurance Typically Covers the Following Types of Property
- Contents. Flood insurance typically pays the actual cash value of the contents of a house or business flooded by a hurricane or other event. “Actual cash value” is generally understood to be the cost to replace damaged or lost property, based on its actual value at the time it was lost. It takes into consideration the age, depreciation, and other qualities of the contents. As a result, “actual cash value” can easily be subject to interpretation.
- Property. For most homes covered by NFIP insurance that are damaged by hurricanes, the policy will cover 80 to 100 percent of the full replacement cost of the building – in other words, the cost to rebuild new, without subtracting depreciation. However, the insurance may cover only one primary building on the site. Homes with outbuildings like barns, pool houses, or other structures may have coverage for the house only.
Although flood damage claims are paid by the federal government, most policies are issued and adjusted by private insurance companies.
What Flood Insurance Doesn’t Cover
Flood insurance may not cover all losses in the event of a hurricane. Some common types of losses are not included in a standard NFIP policy or in many policies sold by private insurers. Purchasers of flood insurance should review their policies carefully to make sure they have coverage for the following losses if that coverage is desired.
Coverage That Your Flood Insurance Policy May Not Offer After a Hurricane Includes
- Water that comes from inside the building, such as from a burst pipe or an overflowing toilet,
- Water that comes from a swimming pool, hot tub, or landscaping malfunction on the property,
- A “flood” that covers fewer than two acres or doesn’t affect any property except yours,
- Living expenses related to the damage to your home, such as the cost of renting a hotel room until the house is fixed,
- Financial losses caused by a hurricane that disrupts business you do out of your home,
- The value of currency and important papers, like stocks or bond certificates,
- Improvements and contents in most below-ground areas, like basements.
What If Your Flood Insurance Denies Your Claim?
Louisiana insurance companies are known for denying flood insurance claims. Sometimes insurance companies seek to avoid paying valid claims to increase their profits. Here are some reasons an insurance company may deny your claim:
- You did not apply for flood insurance early enough,
- You did not file your claim soon enough,
- Your house was damaged in areas that aren’t covered in your policy,
- Earth movement accompanied the flood, or
- Your house was already damaged before the flood.
If your flood insurance company denied your claim, you should contact a flood insurance lawyer for assistance.
An insurance lawyer knows how flood insurance companies work.
An attorney will investigate the reasons behind your denied claim, advise you to appeal the denial to FEMA, or file suit against your insurance company.
You must file suit within one year of a denied claim.
Hurricane Insurance Disputes
Insurance policies that cover flood and hurricane damage are complex, and many families may have multiple policies that address hurricane damage.
As a result, disputes over what insurance should cover and in what amounts are all too frequent – and, when a family is struggling to get back to daily life after a hurricane, is all too frustrating.
An experienced insurance dispute attorney can help you get back on your feet and get the coverage you deserve.
Flood insurance policies are adjusted and administered by your insurance company but paid by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
The NFIP was created by the National Flood Insurance Act (NFIA) and the NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA.
Flood insurance claims are governed by strict, and sometimes complex, rules and it’s often difficult for an insured party to receive the amount to which they are entitled.
While the NFIP is a federal program since 1983 private insurance companies have been engaged in providing flood insurance as Write Your Own (WYO) insurers.
WYO insurers write policies and process claims for the NFIP in exchange for an expense allowance.
When the insurance policy is through a WYO insurer, the insurer is solely responsible for adjusting, settling, and paying the claim.
To claim under your flood insurance policy the first step is to complete and submit a Proof of Loss containing information about the amount of your claim.
This is usually required within 30 days of the loss occurring. Estimates of property damage are difficult to make and often inaccurate.
Claimants should focus on documenting the damage and meeting the applicable deadlines.
However, even when clients have followed all the rules for claims, insurance companies can find reasons to deny or underpay a claim. Insurance companies often claim that damage was pre-existing as a reason to avoid full payment of a claim.
Whether it’s a denial or reduction, its important to know that NFIP claim decisions can be disputed.
As flood claims have special rules and are dealt with in Federal Court, it’s important to engage an attorney with experience in these types of claims specifically. Disputing denials successfully requires well-documenting the loss and having evidence of the loss supported by the right experts.
Flood damage can be expensive, with damage frequently being hidden and not immediately obvious.
Issues with mold and mildew cause extra expense whilst also making some homes dangerous.
Insurers will often employ out of state contractors to contest claims and support the insurance company’s case with lowball estimates.
We take a meticulous approach to flood policy claim disputes, engaging experts in construction who are also experienced in claim writing, to document all your insured losses.
Normally, insurance companies have to act in a reasonable manner when denying claims, in accordance with the coverage the insured has.
An insurance company can undertake a number of actions that can be considered to be ‘in bad faith’.
Bad faith can encompass, but is not limited to: unreasonable delay in settling a claim or providing payment to the insured; deliberately misrepresenting the content of a policy to avoid paying claims, unreasonably attempting to short change the insured or avoiding full payment of a claim.
When an insurance company acts in bad faith, it would ordinarily leave their clients with a legal avenue to obtain relief for any damage they have suffered due to their insurer’s behavior.
Actions against insurance companies for bad faith are firmly within the realm of state law.
In Wright v Allstate Insurance Company, it was held that flood policyholders cannot file state law actions, including actions for bad faith, against WYO insurers regarding any bad faith the insurer has engaged in relation to the flood insurance policy.
However, claims for negligent procuring of flood insurance are not excluded and can be undertaken in State court.
Call a New Orleans Flood Insurance Attorney Today
Experiencing a flood is a stressful event, and you need prompt insurance payment to repair your home.
For aggressive flood insurance attorneys who will fight with your insurance company for the money you deserve, call The Johns Law Firm.
Our experienced flood insurance attorneys regularly challenge big insurance companies for our clients.
Contact us today for a free case review.
We’ll listen to your Louisiana flood damage experience, advise you of legal options, and let you know if we can help.
Then we’ll skillfully negotiate with your insurance company to try to get a maximum settlement.