What Are Your Rights? Hurricane Damage Claims

Man: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding, & Mazzotti.

Melissa: In the wake of Hurricane Dorian and with Hurricane Michael, a not too distant memory, we are left wondering what happens if our home or vehicles are damaged in one of these storms. Will insurance cover the cost to repair or replace some of our greatest assets? Here to help us understand what our rights are is Managing Partner, Paul Harding, from the law firm of Martin, Harding, & Mazzotti. Paul, welcome back.

Paul: Thank you, Melissa.

Melissa: Thanks for being here. So, we’ll jump right into it. Do most car insurance policies cover damage to a vehicle that’s caused by flooding?

Paul: So, it depends. So, liability coverage, everyone has to have. It’s New York state law. So, if you go out and you did cause damage to someone else, you have to have it. But collision is something that’s an option, and comprehensive coverage which covers fire, flooding, and theft, again, optional. So, you have to look at your policy.

Melissa: Okay. What about homes?

Paul: So, the homes are like this. We look at it… Here’s the rule. If the water is coming from the sky down, your homeowner’s policy generally covers it, but the water is coming from the groundswell up, it generally does not. So, when you’re in a flood and it’s raining, it becomes a highly litigated issue as you might imagine. But if you don’t have flood insurance specifically, and there’s a true flood, you’re out of luck.

Melissa: So, how does all of this play out when there’s severe storm damage?

Paul: Well, when a severe storm damage comes in, it really becomes a question of proving to the insurance company that, “Hey, you know, bad wind, part of my roof came off, rain came in.” It’s covered as opposed to, “Oh, yeah. But days later, the floodwaters rose and that also caused damage.” It becomes a real question of proof, and often, insurance companies will fight this stuff right to the end.

Melissa: Okay. So, what should our viewers do if they suffer loss from flood damage but they don’t have flood insurance?

Paul: Yeah. So, at that point, check with the federal agency FEMA. Find out if you qualify for disaster relief and always turn it over your homeowner’s policy. You never know, they may pay you something.

Melissa: All right. Well, thank you so much.

Paul: You’re welcome.

Melissa: You have helpful information there. We appreciate your time.