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Residential homes are not the only properties damaged by floods. Natural disasters can be devastating to businesses as well. Business owners face unique problems after a hurricane because not only is there damage to computers, business records, and other property, but there is also the loss of business income and customer base.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) controls most flood insurance policies, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers the policies. The NFIP has specific rules in place for making flood insurance claims.
What is the NFIP?
Congress created a program in 1968 to provide low-cost policies that private insurance companies were not willing to provide in flood-prone zones. FEMA has been charged with running this program. The NFIP has three main duties; to provide flood insurance, to improve floodplain management, and to develop maps of flood hazard zones. Keep in mind that the president does not need to declare a disaster in order to file NFIP claims.
How can a flood affect your business?
Health and safety risks such as:
- Structural damage
- Electrical damage
- Sharp glass and metal debris
- Sanitary hazards from standing water
- Contaminated drinking water
- Damaged crops
Loss of life: Death is the most devastating affect flood damage can have on you or your business.
Emotional hardship: Mental health professionals are kept on hand when FEMA and Red Cross respond to flood disasters because flood victims can experience difficulty coping with their situation and may have anxiety, depression, fear, anger, frustration, sadness, and grief.
Economic loss: Flood damage puts a huge strain on victims financially. When a business is flooded, operations are at a stand-still.
Steps to take after the flood
It is not possible to reverse the effects of a natural disaster, but you can minimize the impact on your business by keeping a level head and doing everything in your power to get back to business as soon as possible. You will be shaken up and overwhelmed after the flood, but there are tips to protect your right to recover.
- When your property is safe enough to return, shut off your gas and electricity. Contact your service providers if you are unsure how to do so.
- Remove your belongings from the water to avoid more damage. While collecting your belongings, list all damage you find.
- Get in contact with your insurance agent or insurance company immediately. If you have flood insurance for your business, your agent will help you make a claim, and an adjuster will later contact you. The quickest way to make a claim may be online. Check your policy for an e-mail address where claims can be made. Keep following up for a claim number.
- Document all damage immediately by taking photos and video to assist in identifying the true extent of the damage for your insurance claim. This should include structural damage, personal property damage, and standing floodwater levels. Send these records to your insurance company. Don’t forget to document the date and time of your calls, who you spoke to, and all contact you make with your insurance company.
- Start cleaning up. Unsanitary items float around in flood waters so it is important you wear gloves and clothing that you can throw away after the cleanup Don’t discard any items until you check with your insurance company first. Shovel any debris and mud outside. Disinfect all surfaces with a solution of one-fourth cup of chlorine bleach and a gallon of water to kill germs and prevent mildew. Open your doors and windows to allow the air to circulate to protect your premises from possible mold growth. Try salvaging important files and documents by rinsing off any debris, drying and then freezing in plastic freezer bags. Cover roof damage with a tarp.
- People notice when a business is left unattended. If your premises are unsuitable to be in and are going to be unattended for any period, you should secure your premises as best as you can to prevent further loss and damage.
- Don’t forget about your customers. Depending on the type of business you run, contact your customers and advise them of your situation. This will reassure them of your long-term commitment and will be more willing to understand.
- Gather your business records that will prove the value of damaged equipment and inventory. You also want to collect proof of income your business was generating before and after the disaster which includes tax returns, monthly sales tax returns, business contracts, and any other financial statement pertinent to calculating the projected income of your business.
- Create separate cost codes specific to the flood damage and allocate all related expenses to this code. Record the cost if you will be conducting business from a temporary location, detailed records of business activity, and any other costs incurred maintaining your business during repairs. This will help you organize and make it easier to track the final costs.
- You will need to file a Proof of Loss with your insurance company within 60 days after the date of loss (or within any extension made in writing by the Associate Administrator for Federal Insurance and Mitigation) if you have a Standard Flood Insurance Policy. The NFIP or insurance company will not issue payment without this.
- When the insurance adjuster is inspecting your business for flood damage, he may rely on you to point out and provide information about the extent of your flood damage. Make it know that the damages you have noticed so far, may not be the only damage because some may not be visible right away.
- Do not sign the proof of loss attesting to damage if you do not agree with the amount of damage reported by the insurance adjuster or the amount they are offering to cover the damages. When you sign proof of loss, you are swearing the information provided is correct. Do your own research and contact a trusted contractor. Have them give you written estimates to repair and replace the property and all damages.
Why you should contact an attorney
Unfortunately, your insurance company may not always uphold the coverage you are promised. Due to the large nature of loss associated with commercial insurance claims, insurance companies are known for dragging their feet when it comes to payment. Too often insurance companies deny claims after a hurricane by saying most of the damage was due to flooding. This causes a problem because private insurers do not cover flooding, only the National Flood Insurance Program covers flooding.
If you want your insurer to honor your policy due to damages caused by flood waters, or if you want to file a claim with the NFIP, you will want an experienced flood insurance attorney standing by you who has experience forcing insurance companies to honor victims policies.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
If your business has been affected by the damages a flood has caused, don’t wait any longer to contact The Carlson Law Firm. Our goal is to make sure you are compensated with a hurricane insurance claim to get your life and business back to normal as soon as possible.
We are available to you 24/7 because we care, we can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.