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Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding filing an insurance claim for a water loss, and Texas is no different. If you live in Texas and have experienced a water or flood damage event and are trying to find out how to go about the process, what your rights are, etc. here are some basic things you should know:
What is typically covered?
Every carrier’s standard policy is different, and within carriers, each policy can be different. In other words, you need to read the fine print of your policy to know what’s covered and what isn’t. You can visit the Office of Public Insurance Counsel as well to get general information on the policies typically sold in Texas. Generally, water losses are covered if they occur within the premises. By that we mean, if the source of the water is found to be within the home’s structure, it’s usually covered. For example, here’s some things that are typically covered:
() busted pipes in walls or ceilings
() appliances overflowing – refrigerator water lines, dish washing machines leaking, washers overflowing, etc.
() sinks or toilets clogging
However, if the water source originates from outside the property, that isn’t covered under traditional homeowner’s policies. So if you live by the coast and you have Houston flood damage from a heavy storm or hurricane, you would need a separate flood insurance policy through FEMA.
So read through your policy and know what’s covered!
If my loss is covered, then what?
Assuming you’ve stopped the water source and have a moment to catch your breathe, you should first call for help! If you live in Austin, make sure the company is certified to perform Austin water damage services so that when you file your claim, the insurance company has proof the work was done according to code.
Then call your insurance carrier immediately to file a claim. You’ll explain what happened, provide them with your policy number and they’ll get back to you with a claim #. Most will want you to send them a notification in writing as well so make sure you do that.
The biggest tip we can give you when dealing with you insurance company is to document everything! That means take pictures (or video) of the damage, note every single conversation you have with your insurance company, who you spoke with, the date, the details of the call, keep receipts for everything, etc. Don’t let sloppy bookkeeping get in the way of your claim, just make sure you hold on to everything!
What should I expect in the claims process?
Diligence. Insurance agents are obligated to move (relatively) quickly on your claim. To be specific, they have 15 days to either accept your claim or to reject it. Upon notifying you that your claim will be reimbursed/paid for, they have 5 days to to submit payment.
During the claims process, your insurance will send an adjuster to your home to assess the damage. Make sure you’re there so that you can discuss in detail with them what happened, if the water has been cleaned up you can show them the documentation and photos from the standing water, and you can make sure that you’re questions get answered.
What if I disagree with the insurance company’s adjusters assessment?
You can hire a public adjuster who works for you. They charge a fee which you will pay but can be a trained specialist that is in your corner. Of course, they’re obligated to call it like they see it, but they might not see things the same as your insurance company.
If the insurance company does pay my claim, what am I being reimbursed for?
Typically you’re being reimbursed for the replacement costs, in other words, the total documented cost to have services performed to get the flood damage remediated. On top of that, if it’s the case you live in Bexar County and you have San Antonio water damage that was severe enough to have you displaced from your home, you’re eligible to be reimbursed for any living expenses due to having to relocate. So if you have to get a hotel, eat out, etc. make sure to hold on to those receipts!
What if I have a complaint about the process?
As always, you have rights as a consumer. If you feel like your loss has been handled inappropriately by your insurance company, you have the ability to report your experience to consumer protection division of the Texas Department of Insurance.
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