SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) is offering tips to help California residents file claims and recover from the ongoing severe winter weather and flooding.
“Severe weather continues to batter California causing widespread damage to homes, cars, boats, and businesses. Insurers are actively adjusting claims and assisting policyholders. If you have damage, the first step is to contact your insurer and file a claim,” said Karen Collins, APCIA assistant vice president for personal lines policy.
“Talk with your insurer about how your coverage works and if you experience damage, insurers are ready to work with you to help make the claims process go as smoothly as possible,” said Collins. “Contact your insurance provider(s) as soon as you can to report the damage and file your claim.”
What is Covered Under Homeowners, Auto, and Flood Insurance as well as Federal Assistance
Homeowners Insurance: A fallen tree that hits a house and causes damage as well as rain entering through wind-damaged windows, doors or a hole that results in standing water or puddles is considered windstorm damage. Wind damage is usually covered under a standard homeowners policy.
Flood Insurance: Flood damage, from storm surge or the overflow of any body of water over normally dry land areas, is not typically covered under a standard homeowners policy, so homeowners need to contact their flood insurer to file a flood-related claim. Flood insurance policies may be with the National Flood Insurance Program or possibly with a flood insurer in the private market.
Auto Insurance: Water damage to a vehicle is typically covered under an auto policy if the policyholder has purchased comprehensive physical damage coverage. Auto owners should contact their auto insurer as soon as possible to report the damage and file a claim.
Federal Assistance Grants and Loans may be Available: If a homeowner does not have flood insurance, federal disaster assistance may be available in the form of grants or loans. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to impacted California residents on January 8, 2023. Persons living in counties declared eligible for individual assistance programs under a major presidential disaster declaration may register for assistance by visiting www.fema.gov or www.disasterassistance.gov or calling 800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362).
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR HOME IS DAMAGED
- Contact your insurer as soon as possible to report the damage. If possible, have your policy number ready.
- Photograph or videotape the damage to share with your insurer and keep a copy for your records.
- Make temporary repairs if it is safe to do so. If there are holes in your roof or your windows are broken, be sure to cover them as quickly as possible to prevent further damage.
- Save receipts for any materials you purchase to assist with repairs. You may submit them to your insurer for reimbursement.
- Do not throw away any damaged items until an adjuster visits your home. Many insurers are utilizing a variety of virtual solutions to keep the claims process safe and efficient. You may collaborate with an adjuster via a video call instead of in-person.
- Given the scale of these storms you may be contacted by several adjusters. Keep a file of your claim information. Insurers will do everything they can to adjust your claim quickly and thoroughly.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR HOME IS FLOODED
- Shovel or scrape mud off floors, furniture, and walls before the mud dries. Then hose down the walls with clean water, starting from the ceiling.
- Major appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves, can be washed and dried completely. In most cases, they will not be damaged unless they were operating at the time the water covered them.
- Diluted chlorine bleach can be used to clean household items, appliances, walls, and floors and will help control odors.
- Wood furniture should be dried outdoors, but not in direct sunlight. Remove drawers and other moving parts before they dry.
- Food utensils and equipment should be washed thoroughly and sterilized before use. Any food that is open and exposed to flood waters should be discarded.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR VEHICLE IS FLOODED
- Be cautious about starting a vehicle that has been exposed to flood waters, and if your vehicle is missing, report it to the police.
- If the water is above the floorboards, or the seats are wet, do not try to start the car. The electrical system is the most sensitive to water damage and trying to start the car could cause more damage.
- Report the loss to your auto insurer and protect the car from further damage by covering any broken windows. Water damage to a vehicle is typically covered under an auto policy if the policyholder has chosen to purchase comprehensive physical damage coverage.
- The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) further advises that batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles are highly corrosive and should not be exposed to standing water. Flooded vehicles may have high voltage and short circuits that can shock and cause fires. Do not park a damaged vehicle with a lithium-ion battery in a garage or within 50 feet of your house or other structure, another vehicle, or combustibles. If you suspect your vehicles’ battery (or the charging station) has been damaged, contact your dealer.
Additional APCIA Resources: