In a recent case,1 a federal court dismissed a flood claim following a nor’easter storm because the insureds’ proof of loss under the National Flood Insurance Act failed to satisfy the Standard Flood Insurance Policy’s (“SFIP”) “signed and sworn” requirement.2 In that case, the insureds submitted two claims to recover damages from the storm to their insurance company. The first claim of approximately $2,000 was completed on a form provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”). Both insureds signed and dated the document, which stated, “I declare under penalty of perjury that the information contained in the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.” Shortly thereafter, the insurance company issued a check to the insureds for the covered building damages.
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Flood insurance claims are different than regular property insurance claims because virtually all flood insurance claims have to follow federal regulations. The vast majority of all flood insurance policies are written through the National Flood Program. Even if a private company known as a Write Your Own (WYO) is listed as the insurer on the first pages of the policy, these insurers are merely participants in the National Flood Program and the ultimate payments do not come from them but out of the United States Treasury.
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Florence battered the Carolina Coast with 90mph winds when it made landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018. Florence downgraded to a tropical storm Friday evening and is now crawling across South Carolina at a drastically slow rate of approximately 5mph. The Carolinas are now facing the devastating effects of catastrophic storm surge, flash flooding, and prolonged river flooding. Some parts of North Carolina are already inundated with over thirty inches of rain.
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David Stearnett, who is the Flood Insurance Advocate for the National Flood Insurance Program, and Sha Ron James, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, should be congratulated for hosting a free webinar on July 25: Guiding and Educating Insurance Professionals and Consumers about Flood Insurance Needs During a Catastrophe.
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Many state statutes and condominium bylaws require the purchase of reasonably available property insurance which covers all direct physical risks of loss on an extended and replacement cost basis. One issue I have heard associations and their insurance agents ask: “Is flood insurance reasonably available” so that it has to be insured.
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As advocates for victims whose lives have been turned upside down as a result of the devastating flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria, we know that one year may not be enough time for flood victims to obtain the estimates and documents necessary to submit their required proof of loss form to FEMA or their flood insurance company.
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In a June 7, 2018, FEMA bulletin, W-18013, FEMA discusses several claims process enhancements and claims handling reminders that apply to all claims with a date of loss of June 7, 2018 through December 31, 2018. The enhancements to the NFIP’s claim process are in response to the widespread flooding that occurred in 2017.
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