Horry County residents held their breath as Hurricane Florence moved through the Myrtle Beach area this month. But, as the winds slowed, and people began to breathe sighs of relief, media reports began to warn about the flooding that was to come...
This week, sections of the Myrtle Beach area and further inland have begun to record levels of flooding, entire neighborhoods have been evacuated, and there is an ongoing struggle to keep the main roads open so the Grand Strand area is not completely cut off from the outside world.
Many homeowners are now wondering, will my homeowner's insurance policy cover flood damage in SC? What if my car is damaged? If I have an auto accident caused by the flooding, will my auto insurance policy pay for the damages?
When Does Homeowner's Insurance Cover Flood Damage in SC?
If you did not have this coverage before the storm, you are not covered. And, there is a 30-day waiting period before the flood insurance goes into effect - if you buy the insurance now or if you purchased it just before the storm, you are still not covered.
How Do I File a Claim with FEMA if I Have Flood Damage in SC?
You can begin the claims process and find more information on federal disaster assistance at disasterassistance.gov.
Can I Get Disaster Assistance from FEMA if I Don't Have Flood Insurance?
According to FEMA's frequently asked questions, you can get disaster assistance for flood damage in SC when there is a Presidential disaster declaration, but, if you live in a flood zone, you must purchase and maintain flood insurance to be eligible for disaster assistance in the future:
If you live in a high-risk flood zone, and you've received federal disaster assistance in the form of grants from FEMA or low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) following a Presidential disaster declaration, you must maintain flood insurance in order to be considered for any future federal disaster assistance.
Does My Insurance Cover Wind, Hail, and Hurricane Damage?
Your homeowner's policy may or may not cover damage from wind, hail, and other damage from named hurricanes. You should carefully read your policy to see what the exclusions are, or have your attorney review the policy with you.
Most policies cover damage caused by wind or hail, but your policy may exclude wind damage if you live in a coastal area. It may also exclude any damage caused by a named hurricane or wind damage that happens at the same as flood damage in SC.
Does My Auto Insurance Policy Pay for Flood Damage in SC?
Your automobile insurance might cover flood damage in SC - it depends on what type of insurance you purchased. If you purchased only the minimum liability insurance, your policy will not cover damage caused by wind, hail, flooding, or downed trees.
If you purchased comprehensive insurance, however, your automobile insurance should pay for the damages unless there is an exclusion specific to flood damage or named hurricanes.
Flood Damage to Parked Vehicles
If you have comprehensive insurance, your policy should cover:
- Flood damage in SC;
- Wind damage and damage from objects carried by the wind; and
- Damage to your car from fallen trees.
What if you are involved in a car crash during a storm or because of weather conditions?
Auto Accidents During a Hurricane or Flooding
If you are in an auto accident that is another driver's fault, their insurance company should cover your damages just as they would if there was no storm.
Although bad weather conditions may be partially to blame for the wreck, drivers still have a duty to drive carefully and not put other drivers at risk - the level of care expected of a driver is greater during a storm or flood conditions.
What if there is no other driver?
If winds, debris, or flooding causes a single-car accident, your policy should cover the damages if you purchased enough comprehensive insurance in addition to the required liability coverage.
What Should I Do If I Have Flood Damage in SC from Hurricane Florence?
Don't delay - as soon as you know the extent of the damage, you should begin the process of filing your claim and collecting evidence of the extent of the damage:
- Notify your insurance company immediately (or begin the claims process through FEMA's website);
- Schedule an appointment with an adjuster to visit your home and evaluate the loss as soon as possible;
- Mitigate your damages - make sure that the insurance company cannot claim that any of the damage was your fault. Make temporary repairs when necessary with tarps or plywood to cover and protect the damaged areas;
- Take photographs and make a video of all damage to the home and all damaged personal property;
- Make a list of all damaged or lost items and their value; and
- Get initial estimates from a licensed and reputable contractor, but do not have them begin work until it is approved by the adjuster.
Do I Need an Attorney to Make a Claim for Flood Damage in SC?
In many cases, you do not need a personal injury lawyer to make your property damage claim - you can contact your insurance company to file your claim or begin the process through FEMA's website.
If you have a valid claim that is being denied or unfairly limited by your insurance company, however, you should immediately contact a SC flood damage attorney at Axelrod and Associates.
If you need assistance making a claim for flood damage in SC, if your insurance company is denying a valid claim under your policy, or if you were involved in an auto accident during the storm, your SC personal injury lawyer at Axelrod and Associates can help.