By Tod Everage
If you have suffered any type of property damage loss due to the flooding in Louisiana, there are certain steps you can take to maximize your ability to get compensation or benefits for your loss. Unfortunately, too many families were caught unexpected by what is being referred to as a “500 year flood;” many of whom did not have flood insurance.
If you had flood insurance, it is important to notify your insurance agent as soon as possible to file a claim. Next, while your instinct may be to start salvaging what you can and removing carpets to avoid mold, make sure that you document the damage to your property as much as you can. This includes your discarded objects, structural damage, and standing floodwater levels. If you can, make a list of lost or damaged items, including their date of purchase, and salvage any records or receipts that you can for items on that list. Lastly, you will need to complete a Proof of Loss, which is your statement (under oath) of the accuracy of your claim. Your adjuster should assist you in this process, but a copy of this form can be found here.
The Federal Government has issued a Major Disaster Declaration for the following parishes: Acadia, Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tangipahoa, and Vermilion. Residents in these parishes are approved to apply for disaster assistance from FEMA Even if you do not reside in one of the listed parishes, but were affected by the flooding, you are encouraged to apply for assistance. You can also register by phone at: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
Residents and business owners should apply as quickly as they can, even if they have insurance. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but underinsured applicants may receive help after their insurance claims have been settled. At some point, FEMA will set a deadline to register, so pay attention to FEMA’s website regarding the flood. This site also has resources for finding missing loved ones and shelter.
Assistance provided by FEMA for homeowners and renters can include grants for rent, temporary housing and home repairs to their primary residences, as well as other serious disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses, or funeral and burial costs.
Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also may be available to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. The loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.
Residents are urged to contact their insurance company first to file their flood insurance claims. For flood insurance policyholders who may have questions, FEMA has aligned its call center to better support them with the servicing of their claims and getting answers to their questions quickly. Policyholders may call 1-800-621-3362 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and select Option 2. Call center staff are available to assist policyholders with information regarding their policy, offer technical flood guidance to aid in recovery, and respond to general as well as complicated questions about the NFIP. Policyholders with questions specifically about an insurance claim can be transferred to their insurance carrier for additional assistance.