A strange noise echoing throughout your home wakes you from a deep slumber in the middle of the night. You’ve lived in your home for years but never heard this loud sound before. You sit up, step out of bed, and immediately you’re knee deep in luke-warm water. You shout to jostle your family awake. You run down the hall to grab your now screaming toddler from his crib, and you are paralyzed with fear.

How did this happen? Your home has never flooded. Not in Hurricane Allison, not in Hurricane Ike, not in the Houston Tax Day or the Memorial Day floods. You run through your home grabbing the necessities, the irreplaceable valuables that your family holds dearest: your wedding album, grandma’s diamond ring, family photographs, and your folder of important documents. Your family is hysterical as they leave behind your home and memories, and wade into the black abyss of the flood. Luckily, you can reach safety, and although shaken, at least everyone is together.

Flash forward three months. You are slowly starting pick up the broken pieces and rebuild your life. After nearly two weeks of the sewage-laden flood waters sitting in your home, you have torn out the sheet rock, hired a remediator, and filed your flood insurance claim.

You are thankful that you purchased flood insurance and hopeful you will get paid everything you need to repair your home. The flood insurance adjuster inspected over two months ago—he was nice, spent about 2 hours inspecting the house, and we got a $15,000 advance payment—but that was the last we heard of him.

We’ve tried emailing him. No response. Texting him. No response. Calling, writing, anything and everything. No response. We’ve sent him the proposals from our contractors that say how much it will be to rebuild the floors, walls, doors, windows, etc. We sent him our remediation receipts. We sent dozens, if not hundreds, of photographs showing the water lines and our destroyed personal property. Still, we remain in the dark and haven’t received a response.

What more does the adjuster need to estimate our damages? What more does the insurance company need to pay us for our claim? They know that we flooded, we had over 3 feet of water in our house. We cannot rebuild until we get paid for our claim. It’s going to cost over $100,000, and we just don’t have that kind of money right now.

Then it happens: After months of waiting, and hours poured into providing the flood insurance company with every little thing it requires, we received our flood insurance payment for another measly $5,000 accompanied by a letter that says the rest of our damages are not covered and are denied. If we want to appeal this decision, we can send a letter to FEMA, and need to review all of the terms of our policy.

How did this happen? I don’t understand? Why are my damages partially denied? The flood did this, not something else. How do I know if the adjuster and insurance company are right? I have reviewed my policy and thought I did everything I needed to. What do I do now?

Why me again?!

The number one thing is to trust your gut. The flood insurance company and the adjuster may very well be wrong. They may have improperly denied or underpaid your valid flood insurance claim. Flood Insurance policies are long, vague, and can be confusing to many people. Flood Insurance policies contain numerous specific terms, stipulations, and provisions that must be followed for you to comply with the terms of your policy.

It’s important for all flood insurance policyholders to know their rights, and how to determine if they’ve been mistreated by their insurance company. Property owners with flood insurance have legal rights, and a knowledgeable attorney can help evaluate flood insurance claims to determine the appropriate next steps. For some, that may mean filing a lawsuit against their flood insurance company; for others, the claim may be resolved without going to court.