Flood Damage vs. Water Damage: What Your Insurer Might Not Tell You

In the aftermath of a hurricane or tropical storm, many homeowners will find themselves dealing with extensive property damage from flooding. However, a homeowner’s insurance policy may have different levels of coverage for flood damage versus general water damage. This can lead to confusion, disputes with insurance adjusters, and insufficient payouts for repairs. In this article, we’ll break down the key differences between flood damage and water damage, examine common exclusions in homeowner’s policies, and provide tips for maximizing your insurance claim.

Definitions: Flood Damage vs. Water Damage

Flood Damage

Flood damage refers specifically to property damage caused by the overflow of inland or tidal bodies of water. This includes damage from events like hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains, and storm surges. Flood damage is only covered by flood insurance policies, which must be purchased separately from standard homeowner’s insurance.

Water Damage

Water damage is a broader category referring to any damage caused by water intrusion or leakage, including burst pipes, appliance malfunctions, roof leaks, and seepage through foundations. Water damage is generally covered under a standard homeowner’s insurance policy.

Key Exclusions in Homeowner’s Policies

When reviewing your homeowner’s policy, pay close attention to exclusions related to water damage. Two important exclusions to note are:

  • Surface Water Exclusion – This excludes damage from water that enters through the surface of the home, such as during a flood. However, it typically covers water that comes from within the home, like burst pipes.
  • Anti-Concurrent Causation Clause – This states that if any part of the damage is excluded, the entire loss can be denied. So, even if wind initially caused damage which then allowed water to enter, the entire claim could be denied.

These exclusions are why separate flood insurance is crucial for full protection.

Is it Flood Damage or Water Damage? Insurance Adjusters Decide

When you file an insurance claim for hurricane, tropical storm, or other water damage, the insurance adjuster assigned to your case will determine what category the damage falls under. This will dictate what damages your homeowner’s policy will cover.

Unfortunately, insurance adjusters do not always correctly differentiate between flood damage and water damage. For example, an adjuster may attribute roof leaks or water seeping in through windows to “flood” conditions and deny covering damages. But this water intrusion was likely enabled by wind damage, not actual flooding.

How to Dispute an Insurance Adjuster’s Flood Damage Assessment

If you believe the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim has wrongly attributed damages to “flooding”, here are steps to dispute it:

  • Gather evidence like photos and videos documenting the damage timeline and sources.
  • Get a second opinion – hire an independent claims adjuster or engineer to inspect and write a report disputing the flood damage assessment.
  • Reference weather reports and flood zone maps – if your area did not have major flooding, use this to appeal the adjuster’s decision.
  • Highlight wind damage that preceded water intrusion and enabled it.
  • Dispute anti-concurrent causation clauses – argue that initial wind damage caused the loss and should be covered.
  • Threaten (and be prepared to file) a lawsuit against the insurance company for wrongfully denying your claim.

Having a lawyer advocate to the insurance company on your behalf can add credibility to the dispute process. An experienced attorney understands common tactics used by insurance adjusters and can best challenge denials.

Maximizing Your Insurance Claim Payment for Flood and Water Damage

To ensure you receive sufficient funds to repair all damages after a hurricane or tropical storm, consider the following tips:

  • Purchase separate flood insurance for complete coverage against flooding.
  • Document all damage that occurred with photos/videos with timestamps.
  • Point out and estimate every bit of damage, even small items like soiled carpets that need replacement.
  • Get multiple repair estimates to submit to your insurance company. Their initial quote may be lower than real-world repair costs.
  • Hire a public adjuster or appraiser to inspect damages and advocate the full claim amount you are entitled to.
  • Be prepared to dispute and appeal low-ball claim payments. Don’t simply accept an unsatisfactory check from your insurer.

Typical Problems Homeowners Face After Storm Damage

In addition to confusing insurance policies and claim disputes, homeowners often encounter other challenges after major storm damage:

  • Contractor Fraud – Dishonest contractors descend on storm-damaged areas to scam vulnerable homeowners. They may charge exorbitant prices, perform shoddy work, or take payment without completing repairs.
  • Contamination Issues – Flooding can cause mold growth and sewage backups that require specialized remediation. Insurers often resist covering these costs.
  • Permit Delays – Local permit offices get overwhelmed by repair requests after storms, causing frustrating delays before you can begin rebuilding.
  • Living Expenses – If your home is uninhabitable during repairs, additional living expenses are often inadequately covered or denied.
  • Mortgage Payments – You still need to pay your mortgage on a damaged home, even if it’s unlivable. Insurers rarely provide enough to cover months of mortgage and repairs.

An experienced attorney can help you navigate these issues and advocate for sufficient funds to cover all costs you face. Don’t let your insurer take advantage of you during this difficult time.

Call Our Lawyers Today for Help with Your Insurance Claim

Dealing with home damage and insurance claims after major storms can be an extremely frustrating process for homeowners. Understanding the differences between flood damage and water damage, exclusions in your policy, and disputing unfair claim adjustments can help you maximize your payout and get your home back in order. Partnering with a dedicated lawyer can take the claims process burden off your shoulders as well.

If you’ve suffered property damage from a hurricane, tropical storm, or other severe weather event, we can help. Our experienced legal team can handle the claims process on your behalf and ensure you receive the maximum payout you’re entitled to. Contact our attorneys today to discuss your situation and start resolving your insurance claim. Our dedicated team will fight to get you the compensation you need to repair and rebuild after a devastating storm.

Visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Or call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.


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