Hurricane Harvey hit home for our family. In addition to flood damage to our home, our two cars sustained water damage. Because we live on a canal that arguably has salt water content, the automobile insurance company decided to declare my car a total loss under the comprehensive policy. However, the total value of the claim they offered to settle is far less than for what the car could have been sold.
Now we have two issues to resolve: First is to determine if the car is indeed a total loss, and if so, the second is upon an agreed value. In a total loss scenario, you have to 1) forfeit the title and physically turnover the vehicle. The insurance company wants you to hand over the signed title which will be forever recorded as a complete loss. Once you accept the money and turnover the title (all of which requires your signature), the car will be picked up by a wrecker, towed to a salvage lot and auctioned to the highest bidder. 2) Just because the insurance company offers a token value for your car doesn’t mean that you must accept it. You can negotiate to come to an agreed value! Some people take better care of their cars than others. The value depends upon the mileage, maintenance history, accident damage history, and other variables. For example, was the car garaged (or under a car cover); was it frequently waxed and regularly driven; was the oil regularly changed, and the maintenance schedule followed. The region of the country in which the car resided also makes a difference. An exotic high-performance car may be valued higher in New York or Los Angeles than it would be in a remote town in the desert. The appraised value is calculated based upon what the same car is selling for in your area.
For us, the water damage was more extensive because salt water is more corrosive then fresh water. Note: the quicker you can service a water-damaged car, the better. However, this usually requires renting a car while yours is in the shop. In our case, due to the high demand for car rentals, all the units were booked and we are on a waiting list.
SALVAGED CAR BUY BACK
You can buy the car back from the insurance company for salvage value. We have to think about this. Our car still drives well, but it’s having more and more electrical issues.
Hurricane Harvey has created numerous complicated issues that people need help with. I HAVE BEEN THERE not only during Harvey, but also during Hurricane Ike in 2008. You should be aware that there are many alternatives to resolve claim issues. If you need my help, call me at 281-557-9200.
WHAT TO DO FIRST
- Take pictures, pictures and more pictures. With a video camera you can narrate where you acquired the items in case you can’t produce receipts. Remember that although they may have special memories important to you, it’s a material item and you may have to find a way to disassociate yourself emotionally from those memories for the purpose of your insurance flood claim.
- With digital photography, you can take as many pictures as possible and choose the best ones to use. Today’s memory devices have virtually unlimited storage so don’t be shy about taking pictures.
- Have a video camera trained on the entrance so that every item that is removed from the property is documented.
- Use a still camera picture to help document each item claimed. When you prepare your claim you can attach a JPG image file to support each item claimed.
- Many items are heirlooms with sentimental value but the standard the insurance companies are looking for is replacement cost.
- Go online to find and document the value. Printout the published price. The more documentation you have the stronger your claim.
HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE CLAIMS
If your flood damage is caused by water already on the premises such as from a plumbing problem, it is a homeowners insurance claim rather than a flood insurance claim. Flood insurance applies to surface water such as rain storms, tidal surges, and hurricanes.
In Texas, wind storm damages are covered by TWIA (Texas Windstorm Insurance Association). In a Hurricane, there are frequently two parts to the claims process: 1) the flood insurance (which is a Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) activity, and; 2) damage caused by windstorms such as broken windows, torn-off roofs.
Fallen trees, on the other hand, are typically caused by storm damage and are usually covered by homeowner’s policies.
AUTOMOBILE FLOOD CLAIMS
In general, automobile flood damage claims are covered by automobile policies. The Comprehensive part of your auto policy usually covers the flood claim, but always ask your agent.
Automobile flood claims are filed with your auto policy even if they were in your garage when they were flooded.
The SRL (Severe Repetitive Loss) grant program is a FEMA flood mitigation initiative that affects many Gulf Coast residents affected by Hurricane Ike, Katrina, and Rita. For those of us who have suffered repetitive losses resulting in flood insurance claims, FEMA implemented the grant program to mitigate future claims by either elevating flood prone homes or acquisition of properties from the insured claimants so they can rebuild elsewhere out of the reach of potential flood claims. SRL is an acronym for Severe Repetitive Loss which is exactly that – it applies to residential property that is covered under an NFIP flood insurance policy and:
- That has at least four NFIP claim payments (including building and contents) over $5,000 each, and the cumulative amount of such claims payments exceeds $20,000; or
- For which at least two separate claims payments (building payments only) have been made with the cumulative amount of the building portion of such claims exceeding the market value of the building.
- For both (a) and (b) above, at least two of the referenced claims must have occurred within any ten-year period, and must be greater than 10 days apart.
Each county enrolls in various federal grant programs that are managed through the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) at the state level, administered through the Counties Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and then through the municipal engineering or building permit departments.
As a result of global warming and frequent flooding, the flood maps are being redrawn and revisions to the flood insurance programs are changing faster than we can implement them. This affects how the SRL programs are being administered. Part of the new costal flood analysis and mapping include flood phenomenon’s such as overland wave modeling which are affected by wave action in various degrees depending on the property’s proximity to the title surge such as a “LiMWA” (Limit of Moderate Wave Action) area. Though the LiMWA is only proposed at this time in the future these areas may result in elevations in excess of the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) being required. During the execution of a SRL project the TWDB is requesting that homes are elevated to meet these requirements and FEMA defines the LiMWA amount for each area to ensure that a property is elevated as high as necessary to be compliant once the new maps and LiMWA areas become effective.
The SRL grant programs are a moving target and NEWSLETTER posts will be updated from time to time with developments.