Act now to avoid flood insurance denial later

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Thousands of homeowners in the area are dealing with flood damage, and if you have flood insurance, that likely means filing a claim with Federal Emergency Management Agency. But there are things you need to be doing now to make sure you get the assistance you need.

Outside her Meyerland home Thursday afternoon, flood victim Michelle Blum told us, "It's very overwhelming. I don't know where to start."

Three feet of water inside her home Tuesdayu morning ruined all her appliances, flooring, furniture, children's toys and countless photo albums. She's called her insurance agent but as she waits for an adjuster, her family is now surrounded by all that stuff.

"We have to keep it in here. I can't do anything."

Experts say it's not a bad idea to wait for an adjuster, but not to wait too long. Flood insurance policies are written by many insurance agents, but almost all backed by the US Government through FEMA. As with any government program, not following the rules and complying with deadlines can lead to denials.

The first step is to call your insurance company that sold you flood insurance.

An adjuster will then be sent to your home. Adjusters need to see the damage for themselves as they work on your claim. If you can't keep the ruined items inside the house, at least document what was lost.

"Take photographs if you are able do. If you can't write it down," says Houston attorney Rene Sigman.

Sigman is with Houston's Mostyn Law Firm. The firm has handled more than 10,000 flood claims for clients and has tips on their website, The adjusters will likely be rushed with several appointments to get to, but make sure you show them all of the damage.

Sigman warns the rules of flood insurance are tricky and laden with what she calls "gotcha moments." The most important of which she tells us is submitting your claim on time.

The most important piece of paperwork, your "Proof of Loss" form and it must be submitted on time. In the case of this week's flood, FEMA just extended that crucial deadline. It is normally 60 days from the day of the flood. Thursday afternoon FEMA extended that to 240 days. For anyone flooded on Tuesday morning, that means submitting all of your "Proof of Loss" paperwork by January 20, 2016. An adjuster may give you the Proof of Loss form. If not it is available on line.

The FEMA Proof of Loss form is a federal document that must be sworn to, and to ensure proper payment for your loss should include as much detail as possible. Receipts showing the value of damaged items are best, credit card statements are good too. If not, a price from the Internet is not a bad idea to gather and submit for everything that will be thrown out.

Finally Sigman advises to try and follow up phone conversations with your insurance agent, FEMA, and the adjuster in writing or an email to at least show the work you've done to comply with the rules of the policy.
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