If your home or automobile was damaged by this weekend’s flood, what should you do now?
Russ Dubisky, executive director of the S.C. Insurance News Service, offers these tips. The news service is a trade association that represents property and casualty companies in the state.
“I know it can get a little overwhelming, especially for consumers who don’t deal with these situations every day,” Dubisky said.
First things first. If it’s safe, take steps now to protect your property from any further damage.
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As for what’s already damaged, it’s wise to take photographs to document and assess the spoilage, Dubisky said. Then, call your insurance agent or company as soon as possible to get the claims process started. There’s not a “too late” moment to file a claim, Dubisky said, but the sooner you do, the sooner you can start getting repairs made.
A comprehensive car insurance plan, required by many lenders if you took out a loan on your car, will most likely cover flood damage, Dubisky said.
But standard homeowners insurance typically will not. A separate flood insurance policy is usually required to cover those damages.
Unfortunately, Dubisky said, only an estimated 10 percent of South Carolinians have flood insurance. But under these severe circumstances, and with authorities declaring states of emergency in South Carolina, disaster assistance funds might be available to the uninsured, Dubisky said.
Homeowners insurance will likely cover any destruction caused by a downed tree and any water damage that occurs after the tree falls.
For renters, a renters insurance policy should cover damage to any of your personal property caused by, say, a roof leak. But the property owner or owner’s insurance is responsible for any damage to the structure. Most renters’ policies, however, exclude flood damage.
Repairing your property isn’t the only concern after a flood. The Columbia Fire Department offers these reminders to stay safe after the flood waters have subsided.
▪ Avoid standing floodwaters, which might be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage. Water might also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
▪ Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Even if the roadway of a bridge or elevated highway looks normal, the support structures below might be damaged.
▪ Stay clear of downed power lines and report them to your power company.
▪ Use extreme caution when entering buildings, as there might be hidden damage, particularly to foundations. Stay out of any building that is surrounded by floodwaters.
▪ Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and other harmful chemicals.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.