Insurance or FEMA? Margaret Grant asked 2 years ago
Insurance or FEMA?

My 75′ tree fell on my garage and bedroom because of Ian. There are holes in both areas, causing water damage in the bedroom ceiling. My insurance company asked me if the damage is caused by wind, water, or both. I am afraid that if I say both, they will refer me to FEMA. They are asking questions through texting so no elaboration is available. How do I answer?

1 Answers
Amy Bach Amy Bach Staff answered 2 years ago

We’re so sorry your home has been damaged. Unless you’re a structural engineer, contractor or “forensic expert,” you’re not in a position to give an expert opinion on the cause of the damage. Your insurance company is obligated to do a full, prompt and fair investigation of your claim and should not be asking you for a professional opinion you’re probably not qualified to give. However, with all the chaos and claims coming in, the representative may have been trying to shortcut and determine whether the damage is covered by your home policy. Home policies exclude flood damage, but cover wind and wind-driven rain damage. Some insurers have tried in the past and will very likely again try after Ian to avoid paying for wind-driven water damage by claiming it was flood. But hope springs eternal that they’ll do the right thing.

Property owners who don’t have flood insurance of course want their home insurer to pay for as much of the damage as possible, so there will be disputes. We hope your insurer steps up and pays promptly and in full.

It’s often hard to tell whether water rose or fell. Where it rose, it’s generally flood damage; where it fell or came in through an opening, it’s wind damage. (You have that argument, clearly – the tree created an opening.) Wind damage is generally covered by home insurance, flood not.

It’s highly likely that because a tree fell through your roof, the damage was largely caused by wind and wind-driven rain in which case your home insurer owes for the repairs. If the cause was storm surge flooding, the home insurer could avoid paying, and point you in the direction of your flood insurer (which you may or may not have – we know that many Ian victims did not have flood insurance). When you refer to FEMA, you may be talking about FEMA aid–individual assistance or an SBA loan–or you may be talking about flood insurance sold through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. Two different types of FEMA aid. If you don’t have flood insurance, you can apply for FEMA aid or an SBA loan. If you do have flood insurance, there is a claim process that’s different from normal home insurance. Regardless, we recommend focusing as best you can on getting reputable professionals to figure out what happened to your property and what needs to be done to restore it as close as possible to its pre-loss condition.