It will be weeks before damage estimates from Hurricane Harvey are finalized, but thereis no doubt that insurers will see figures in the billions ofdollars.

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Related: How HR can help followingdisaster

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After Hurricane Katrina, the National Flood Insurance Program(NFIP), a federal program managed by the U.S. Federal EmergencyManagement Agency(FEMA), experienced more than $15 billion inlosses in Louisiana and Mississippi.

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While a homeowners insurance policy will cover a number ofspecific perils, a standard policy will not provide coverage forflood damage. It may provide some coverage for rain or wind, butflooding from overflowing rivers and streets will not becovered.

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Related: 4 ways HR managers can minimize naturaldisaster risks

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Flood coverage is usually purchased through an additional policyfrom either a private insurer or from the NFIP. The Consumer Federation ofAmerica (CFA) “believes that Hurricane Harvey could resultin as many as 50,000 claims for wind damage by homeowners” and twoto three times that number in flood claims according to a pressrelease.

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CFA also estimates that less than 20% of homeowners sustainingflood damage will have insurance protection, leaving manyresponsible for their flood-related losses.

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Related: In 2016, Feds opened door for Louisianaflood victims to get 401(k) funds

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According to FEMA, the average flood claim from 2008 to 2012 was$42,000. In 2012, the average flood insurance policy cost $650 peryear. In 2014, average claims paid ranged from a low of $10,476 toa high of $42,275.

Flood loss claims averaging $24,698 in 2017


For the first five months of 2017, the average claim payment for a flood loss was$24,698. CoreLogic, a global property information and analyticsfirm, conducted an analysis that found 52% of commerical andresidential properties in the Houston metro area are at a "high" or"moderate" risk of flooding.

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For homeowners and renters impacted by Hurricane Harvey, it willbe important to document the loss and file a claim with theirinsurer or the NFIP, if they have the appropriate coverage. Hereare some things to consider:

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Flood-damaged homes after Hurricane Harvey
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Flood water surround homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey,Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Rockport, Texas. (AP Photo/EricGay)

1. What does flood insurance cover?

Flood insurance covers both the building and contents inside,but it doesn’t cover the land the dwelling is located on. There maybe limited coverage for basements, crawlspaces, lower floors andenclosed floors of elevated buildings.

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Dwelling coverage will cover property up to $250,000 andcontents coverage insures up to $100,000 of personal property.Flood insurance is not a valued policy and does not pay more thanthe policy limit for any losses.

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Building coverage includes:

  • The building and its foundation.

  • The electrical and plumbing systems.

  • Major systems like central air conditioning equipment, furnacesand the hot water heate.r

  • Some appliances such as refrigerators, cooking stoves andbuilt-in appliances like dishwashers.

  • Permanently installed carpeting over an unfinished floor (e.g.,wood, cement).

  • Window blinds.

  • Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases andcabinets.

  • A detached garage (up to 10% of building property coverage).

Coverage for contents includes:

  • Clothing, furniture and electronic equipment.

  • Curtains.

  • Portable and window air conditioners.

  • Portable appliances such as microwaves and dishwashers.

  • Carpeting that is not covered under the building coverage

  • Clothes washers and dryers.

  • Food freezers and the food in them.

  • Certain valuable items such as original artwork and furs (up to$2,500).

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The Bayfront Restaurant damaged by Hurricane Harvey
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The Bayfront Seafood restaurant is surrounded by floodwatersin the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, inPalacios, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

2. What it doesn’t cover


There are a number of damages and expenses a flood insurance policywill not cover. These include:

  • Currency, precious metals and valuable papers like stockcertificates.

  • Damage caused by moisture, mildew or mold that could have beenprevented by the homeowner or renter.

  • Property and items outside of the dwelling such as trees,plants, wells, septic systems, walkways, decks, patios, fences, hottubs, seawalls and swimming pools.

  • Financial losses due to business interruption or loss of use ofthe insured property.

  • Most self-propelled vehicles — e.g., cars, motorcycles,four-wheelers, etc.

  • Damage from sewer backups unless there is a flood in the areaand the flood is the proximate cause of the sewer or drainbackup.

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Insurance claim form
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Photo: Shutterstock

3. File your flood claim as soon as possible


Individuals or businesses with a flood insurancepolicy should file a claim as quickly as possible if theysustain flood damage. Since there has been an official PresidentialDisaster Declaration, homeowners may be eligible for assistancefrom other sources such as FEMA, the U.S. Small BusinessAdministration or even some state or privateorganizations.

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Residents who register for disaster assistance may be eligiblefor help with temporary housing, funding for home repairs, and helpwith home replacement or permanent housing construction.

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When contacting the insurer, make sure you have the name of theinsurance company for the broker or agent, your policy number, anda phone number or email address where you can be reached regardingthe claim. Once you have filed your claim, keep careful notes aboutwho you spoke to, when and what was discussed in case any questionsarise later on in the process.

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business receipts
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Receipts from purchases, reports and other documents willhelp verify an insurance claim. (Photo:Shutterstock)

4. Documentation matters


A thorough record of what was lost or damaged will be one of themost important aspects of your insurance claim. Once allowed backinto your home or business, take photographs of all damagedproperty — both personal contents and structural damage,standing floodwater, or visible flood levels on walls orfurniture.

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Create a list of items that were lost or damaged, including whenthey were purchased and the price paid. Online vendors may be ableto provide receipts for items purchased in the last few months. Ifyou have photos of items before the storm, include those with theclaim too.

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Also document any items that are discarded, need to be disposedof, or placed outside of the home or office. Use caution whentaking photos, since parts of the structure may be loose and itemsmay have shifted during the flooding.

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Keep copies of all contractors’ estimates, any experts’ reportsor other documentation related to the cost of the claim. If yourclaim is denied or there are questions about coverage, having arecord of what was lost or the cost to repair the damage will behelpful in appealing the decision.

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Take photos of large ticket replacement items that are purchasedsuch as televisions or appliances, as well as the receipts as proofof purchase for the claim. The more documentation you have, theeasier it will be to substantiate the claim.

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two contractors after Hurricane Harvey
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Sadly, too many people who may not have the experiencebecome "contractors" after a major catastrophe hits. (Photo:Shutterstock)

5. Beware of fly-by-night contractors


Before engaging any contractors, ensure that they have goodreferences and are insured in case there are any errors or injurieswhile they are on your property. Reputable contractors will notrequest full payment up front before any work is completed.

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References can be obtained from the Better Business Bureau,insurance companies and previous clients, or online from variousreferral services. The old adage, "If it sounds to good to be true,it probably is," definitely applies when selecting acontractor.

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Filing a claim takes time and is a process. Many insurers may beable to provide some assistance for immediate living expenses whenthe claim is initially filed. Make sure to track all expensesrelated to your insurance claim — housing expenses, meals,replacement items, medications, clothing and the like. If you havequestions, ask your insurance representative or check some of theresources below.

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