CHICAGO - As thousands in flood-ravaged suburbs are waiting for the water to recede, the I-Team is helping navigate insurance claims for flood victims. There are also scams that could create an even bigger financial mess.
When you're dealing with a flooded home or water-logged car, it can be difficult to know where to start. The I-Team spoke to experts, asking what you need to know about flood insurance or filing a claim.
Fox Lake resident Meghan Roggenbuck was watching the flood waters inch up to her home again this week. This is her family's third flood. She was compensated for her losses in the first one, but not for the second disaster.
"We didn't have receipts, pictures and the paperwork," said Roggenbuck. "The flood insurance company said you can't prove that you made the repairs we paid you for the last one, so we were denied."
Experts said she and other victims need to be prepared before disaster strikes.
"For any kind of loss, hang on to receipts, keep them out of the house, in your office or on the cloud or your phone so you have a backup record to go to," said Rose O'Brien, director of personal risk management at GCG Risk Management.
If you have flood insurance, you'll have 60 days to file a Proof of Loss claim with your insurance adjuster. It's a sworn statement of the possessions you've lost. You'll want to take photos and video of your flood losses.
After you and your insurer agree on the amount of damage you've sustained, your claim will be processed.
If you're not a victim of the recent flooding, experts said you should still get a flood insurance policy. It's less expensive for those who live in low-risk zones.
"Pretty much everyone needs flood insurance. Under homeowner policies most people have coverage for water backup through sewers and drains. That's not flood coverage," said O'Brien.
If you have valuable possessions in your basement, you may want extra coverage, because basic insurance doesn't cover everything.
"The contents in a basement are limited to a washer dryer, portable air conditioning unit and a freezer," said O'Brien.
And there are insurance related scams. Before you sign an application or pay, call your state insurance department to confirm the agent and company you are dealing with is licensed to sell flood insurance.
The Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau also said you should be on the lookout for flood related contractor scams. Be wary of contractors that approach you for flood repaid work and never pay for the job upfront.
Consumers with federal flood insurance, or those interested in obtaining flood insurance, should contact the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at 800-638-6620 or visit https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.
If consumers have questions about their coverage, the Illinois Department of Insurance has developed a useful resource center at http://insurance.illinois.gov/HomeInsurance/consumerHomeowners.html. Should consumers wish to speak with DOI staff members, they can call 866-445-5346.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Here are a few NAIC resources on this topic.
-For tips to evaluate your need for flood insurance now, click here.
-For the New Disaster Prep Guides from Insure U aim to help homeowners before disaster strikes, click here.
-For What Consumers Need to Know Before Flood Waters Rise, click here.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan warned residents about flood-related repair scans. For more information, click here.