As Hurricane Sandy make its way along the Atlantic Coast, disaster experts are reminding U.S. residents that flooding is the country's number one natural hazard, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, which Congress created in 1968.
Meteorologists were calling Hurricane Sandy an "extra-tropical cyclone" on Friday when it was a category 1 storm.
When Hurricane Isaac came ashore in the Gulf Coast in August, its strength as a Category 1 hurricane was weaker than that of Hurricane Katrina, which hit seven years ago. But in both storms, flooding was the main cause of damage.Many people don't realize until it's too late that flooding may not be covered by their regular homeowner's policy.
Here are six myths about natural disaster insurance that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and other insurance experts try to dispel.
|The type of natural disaster doesn't matter.|
Insurer MetLife says damage from windstorm or hail and lightning is included in most homeowners' policies, whereas damage from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are usually not.
Homes and businesses along a shoreline often have to have special insurance policy endorsements that cover water damage due to high winds, according to Judith Spry, partner in the insurance claims services practice at BDO Consulting, which provides litigation, investigation, restructuring and risk advisory services to major corporations, law firms, insurance companies, financial services entities and government organizations.
Despite misconceptions, you can get flood insurance nationwide and if you live in a floodplain or high-flood risk area, the NFIP says.
|You can't get flood insurance if your property has been flooded before.|
For people who don't already have flood insurance, it is most likely too late to get it for those homes that sustain flood damage from Hurricane Isaac, but it is possible to get it next time, said the NFIP.
Though most insurance policies don't include flood protection, coverage can be purchased from the federal government.
|You can only buy flood insurance if your mortgage broker requires it.|
If you have a federally insured mortgage and live in a high-risk flood zone, mortgage companies will often require flood insurance to secure your loan.
If you live in a high-risk flood zone and receive federal disaster assistance after a flood, you will be required to purchase and maintain flood insurance until your loan is paid off. In this case, if you don't buy flood insurance and another flood damages your property, a request for federal disaster assistance could be denied.
|You can't get flood insurance if you live in a low-to-moderate flood-risk area at a lower cost.|
The NFIP says you can get flood insurance if you live outside a floodplain or in a low-to-moderate flood-risk area, and at lower cost.
Homeowners insurance is usually based on the cost to rebuild rather than the current market value of a home, according to the MetLife Auto & Home Insurance Literacy study from August 2010.
Spry said home and business owners should make sure they have coverage for replacement costs rather than actual cash value. Depending on how big your house is, how old it is and what it costs to replace it, she said the higher insurance premium may be worth the expense of the replacement cost in the long run.
|Start the insurance claims process as soon as possible.|
The NFIP recommends three steps once you have flooding.
First, you should call your agent or insurance company to file a claim and an adjustor should contact you within a few days. You should know the name of your insurance company, your policy number and contact information where you can be reached.
Second, the NFIP recommends you separate undamaged from damaged property and take photographs of the latter, including discarded objects, structural damage and standing floodwater levels and make a list of damaged or lost items, including date of purchase, value and receipts if possible.
Third, your adjuster will provide you a Proof of Loss form for your official claim for damages, which you must file with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood.
You should receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has your complete, accurate, and signed Proof of Loss form. If major catastrophic flooding occurs, it may take longer to process claims, according to the NFIP.
|You don't need a public adjuster on a big claim.|
Spry says you do not need a public adjuster.
Public adjusters, who work for you and not the insurance company, will take a percentage of a claim even if the insured is investing a significant amount of time, such as preparing forms, for the process.
She recommends having an accounting firm to provide claims preparation coverage.