The Steps to Settlement
The following is an outline of the steps involved when filing your flood claim:
- Report a flood claim to your agent or directly to the NFIP.
- Your insurance company assigns an adjuster to assist you in the preparation of your claim.
- The adjuster schedules an appointment to meet you onsite at the flooded property.
- The adjuster takes photos, measures the damaged areas of your home and discusses any needed repairs with you. You will also discuss an advance payment.
- If you have personal property coverage, the adjuster will need to see and photograph all damaged items. Give them your list of damaged personal property items and any photos.
- Once the necessary information has been gathered, the adjuster enters it into our system and creates an itemized room-by-room appraisal of your damages.
- The adjuster will contact you after they complete the required paperwork. They will need you to witness and sign a “Proof of Loss” form. This form, along with the adjuster’s photos and damage estimates, is then forwarded to Jackson Adjustment Company’s home office.
- Your claim will undergo a review process in our home office. We do not approve or deny claims; our review is to ensure that your coverage has been correctly applied to your damage and that all paperwork has been accurately completed. After this review, the claim is forwarded directly to your insurance company.
- Your insurance company will examine the claim file and determine what to pay. A check for building damage will be made payable to you and any lien holder(s). A check for personal property will be cut separately and made payable directly to you.
Your flood policy requires that the Proof of Loss form be filed with your insurance company within 60 days from the date of loss. Your adjuster will assist you in meeting this deadline. Work closely with your adjuster; their responsibility is to guide you during this critical and challenging period. Our objective is to ensure that you receive all costs due for covered flood damage.
Getting the Moisture Out
Remove all water from your home immediately. Thoroughly wash out any mud, dirt and debris with a hose, mop or sponge. Remove any water-soaked furnishings but keep them available for your adjuster to see.
Remove wallboard and paneling to the flood level but remember to take pictures of the water line before doing so. Wallboard acts like a sponge when wet. You should also remove any flood-damaged insulation, which can retain water for months after getting wet. Plaster walls can usually be adequately drained by removing the baseboard and breaking out plaster and lath at the bottom of the wall. The baseboard can cover the opening later.
Remove vinyl-covered wallpaper. It restricts drying within flood-damaged walls.
Remove wet carpeting but take a picture beforehand and save a small sample for your adjuster.
Once all wet carpeting and wall surfaces have been removed, the dry-out process can begin. Dehumidifiers and fans are useful especially when outside humidity levels are high; shut all windows and doors while using them.
If you hire a cleanup company, their covered charges are included in your final settlement. It is your responsibility to pay the cleaning company as the insurance company will not accept an assignment. Have the cleaning company foreman call your adjuster to discuss the working arrangement.
Mold Prevention and Cleaning
Regarding mold and your flood policy, you should know that your insurance company expects you to do everything in your power to prevent mold. If you are unable to take preventive measures and mold appears, you are covered under your flood policy.
Anyone advising you not to touch anything until your adjuster has seen it is giving you bad advice. It is your responsibility under policy to prevent the growth of mold. The following information should be helpful:
- Detection – Molds can usually be detected by a musty odor. Discoloration of surfaces is also common with mold growth. Mold can change surfaces to white, green, brown, black or orange.
- Conditions for Mold Growth – Molds grow on organic materials such as paper, leather, dirt, tile grout and cement. They grow best at warm moist temperatures between 77- and 86-degrees F.
- To Prevent Mold – Cleaning, disinfecting and drying surfaces prevents mold growth. Mold grows on damp surfaces within a couple of days at normal temperatures. Reduce humidity levels by using dehumidifiers and air conditioners. Additionally, you can ventilate with outside air during the winter when outside temperatures are cooler than indoors; ventilating with summer air typically increases relative humidity. The goal is to increase the flow of air throughout your home. Move furniture away from walls and open closet doors to permit air circulation.
- Mold Cleanup and Removal – Materials should be dried quickly; mold will begin growing within 24 to 48 hours. Remove mold using a non-ammonia soap or detergent. Never mix bleach and ammonia. Rinse with clean water. Disinfect by applying a solution of ¼ bleach per gallon of water. The surface should be thoroughly wetted with the solution. Allow the solution to dry naturally for 6 to 8 hours.
Pumping Out Your Basement
Before you enter a flooded basement, take time to complete these steps:
- Turn off the electricity, preferably at the meter.
- Check outside cellar walls for possible cave-ins, evidence of structural damage or other hazards.
- Turn off gas or fuel service valves.
- Open doors and windows or use blowers to force fresh air into the basement.
For safety reasons, do not use an electric pump powered by your own electrical system. Instead, use a gas-powered pump or one connected to an outside line. Fire departments in some communities may help with pumping services.
No matter the type of basement wall construction, if the basement is flooded with more than 6 inches of water don’t rush to pump it out. More damage could be caused by pumping the water out too soon than by letting it remain. Water in the basement helps brace the walls against the extra pressure of wet soil. If pumped too soon, floors can push upward and cause walls to cave in. Don’t start pumping until the water around your home recedes, then follow this procedure to prevent any further damage:
- Remove about a third of the water each day.
- If the outside water level rises again after the day’s pumping, start again at the new water line.
- Don’t rush when pumping; the soil may be very slow to drain. Whatever is submerged in the basement will not be damaged further by delaying pumping.
Avoid Contractor Rip Offs
Be extremely cautious of contractors you hire to repair or rebuild damaged property.
Unfortunately, a few dishonest contractors take advantage of people caught in the wake of a flood. Here are some helpful tips:
- Try not to rush into starting repair work.
- Get estimates from more than one licensed, bonded, reputable contractor. Don’t hire the first person that comes along. Call your local Better Business Bureau to find credible contractors.
- Find out what neighbors or friends are paying for similar work.
- Be wary of contractors claiming, “I can get to you right away and do it cheap” or “just sign here.”
- Make certain the contractor shows you a certificate of insurance that covers liability and worker’s compensation; otherwise you could be sued if a worker is injured while working on your property.
- Get a contract in writing. It should include scope of work, when the work will start and end, an itemized cost breakdown, a payment schedule and it should spec out the quality of materials being used.
- Make sure repairs are done according to local building codes. Most flood repairs require permits. Check with your local building department.
- Ensure that your signature on a contractor’s bid is not an authorization to begin work.
- Don’t pay more than 20% down for the contractor to begin working; then continue to pay periodically according to the progress of work.
- If the contractor insists on payment for materials up front, always go with them to buy the materials.
- Have the contractor sign a release of lien once the work is done and paid for. This prevents the contractor from making legal claims against your property in the event of a disagreement.
- Make sure all work that requires city or county inspection is officially approved in writing before making final payment to the contractor.
- Don’t make final payment until the job is complete and you are satisfied with it.
If you have been a victim of contractor fraud, contact your State Attorney General’s Office, Office of Consumer Protection and local police department.