Storm Damage: How to Tell If It’s a Flood Claim or a Wind Claim
Following a storm of any kind, your property can experience wind, flood damage or both, resulting in serious losses to both the exterior and interior of your home or business.
Determining which type of claim to file and for what can be difficult. Sometimes water intrusion is a direct result of wind, while other times water damage is a result of flooding. A wind claim is generally when wind causes damage to the property either by direct physical damage or by wind-driven rain. Flooding is considered an overflowing of a large amount of water beyond its normal confines, especially over what is normally dry land.
Storm Wind and Water Damage
During a windstorm, such as a tropical storm, hurricane or tornado, damage can be caused both to the interior and exterior of your property. Storms that create excessive wind, hail, or even flooding can create significant damage, and strong winds can cause roof damage, or cause trees and other debris to damage the structure of your property. This damage can allow water to enter your property and cause further damage.
Interior water damage can be seen in ceilings and walls, but also in floors, kitchen cabinets, and contents (furniture and clothing) in the property. If left unfixed, water damage can cause serious problems such as mold and decay.
Wind-related water damage is generally covered under your homeowners insurance policy. In today’s policies, we often see wind damage excluded unless a “covered peril” (the wind) damages the property causing an opening in a roof or wall through which the rain or wind-driven water enters. Of course, the insurance company does not define what is meant with “an opening.” In my experience, even the smallest opening, like damage to a shingle roof’s membrane, is considered “an opening” if caused by wind, hail, or debris and trigger’s coverage if water enters through such opening. When inspecting your roof, look for curling, loss of granulation, and missing or broken shingles. On flat roofs look for cracks, tears, bubbles, or blisters. Also look at your flashing, soffits, fascia, gutters, and chimneys for damage. Always look in the attic for water leaks such as water stains, peeling paint, or wet rafters. However, the insurance company will likely tell you the damage was not covered as the wind “did not cause an opening”. All my cases start with the insurance company saying no. Please don’t let them have the last word in your case.
Storm water damage may be covered in your homeowner’s policy if:
- The cause of the water damage was wind-driven rain, hail, wind-driven debris or falling rain that leaked through a hole or opening in the roof, soffit, or wall.
- The damage was not caused by what your homeowner’s policy has defined as a “flood” or an otherwise excluded peril or cause for the damage.
- A separate, additional rider or surplus policy was purchased that includes flood damage.
Flood insurance is a separate insurance policy from your homeowners insurance. If you don’t have a flood insurance policy, your property is not covered for flood damage. While homeowner’s policies cover water damage to some degree, flooding is not covered. Flood damage is when a large amount of water overflows beyond its normal confines. This can be due to a storm surge, tidal wave, river flood, or flash flood, when water rises due to wind or rain. Flood insurance will be required for damage that is a result of poor drainage, sudden rainfall, overflow of tidal or inland waters, or mudflow.
What You Need to Do
When you have water or wind damage caused by a storm, first you need to contact your insurance company to file a claim. Your insurance agent should be able to tell you the terms of your policy, what is covered, and what might not be covered and help you contact the insurance company. They should also be able to help schedule an adjuster to visit your property to inspect the damage, answer your questions, and help you on the path to recovery.
Locating the source and reason for the damage is imperative to determining the claim that needs to be filed. Water damage that was the result of wind or storm damage should be filed with your homeowners insurance company for repair or replacement costs. Damage caused by flood should be reported to your flood insurance company. Sometimes both wind and flood claims should be filed simultaneously due to overlapping damages.
It is important to report any damage from winds or water to your insurance company quickly. Many insurance companies have a strict timeline in which a loss must be reported or they are automatically denied.
When dealing with roof damage, some insurance companies will deny coverage if your property had an older roof claiming “wear and tear” as the cause for the damage. However, even if your roofing system was old, or if it was not leaking prior to the storm, it is covered the same as a new roof. The insurance company did not issue a homeowners insurance policy to cover only “new” roofs. Please never take a “no” for the final answer. I start all my cases with a “not covered” letter from the insurance company.
If your property has been damaged as a result of a recent storm and your claim has been underpaid, delayed or denied, it is important to contact an experienced attorney to review your policy and claim file. We may be able to determine if the loss should be covered and that you are entitled to additional funds. I take all my insurance cases on a contingency basis so you don’t pay me unless I recover additional money on your behalf. Please contact us for a free consultation on water, wind, or flood damage claim.