National Flood Program

With Hurricane Dorian causing flooding on the east coast as we speak the question, I often get asked is: when can I sue my flood insurer for a violation of state law? Recently the Corpus Christi Division of the Southern District of Texas addressed the question.
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A recent Southern District of Florida decision addressed this issue.1

A property in Islamorada, Florida, which was owned by the estate of Raymond K. Hampson, was damaged by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The personal representative for the estate, Timothy R. Hampson (“Hampson”) made a claim for damages under the standard flood insurance policy (“SFIP”) covering the property. When Hampson sued Wright National Flood Insurance Company, a Write Your Own (“WYO”) carrier, for breach of the insurance contract, Hampson also sought an award of attorney’s fees, costs and case expenses under the Equal Justice to Access Act (the “EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412.
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The time is now to button up those flood claims. The deadline for submission of the sworn statement of a Hurricane Michael flood loss, known as the Proof of Loss (‘POL”), is 365 days from the date of loss,1 which is October 10, 2019, for those in the Panhandle of Florida. The POL is the policyholder’s sworn statement for the amount of insurance proceeds requested under the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (“SFIP”).
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The Tampa Bay Times ran an excellent story, Hurricane Michael Destroyed Their Homes Then The Insurance Heartache Began, which tells a sad but familiar theme about insurance company denials and delayed payments following hurricane losses. I was quoted in the piece:

Chip Merlin, a Tampa insurance lawyer, said the same conflict happened in the last 15 years after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike. He said companies try to avoid making payment even when a slab is all that’s left of a property, as is the case in much of Mexico Beach.

‘Typically you have the strongest wind speeds come first, and then the storm surge follows it,’ Merlin said. Both cause damage. But residents and their attorneys, he said, may need to pay meteorologists and engineers to prove that flood and wind are to blame, and how much.
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Hurricane Michael has left a familiar mark on the Florida Panhandle. Much like Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, Hurricane Michael brought devasting winds followed by wind and flooding and more wind. Battered homes and businesses are assessed in the aftermath in an attempt to determine the extent and cause of damage resulting from the multiple perils associated with a hurricane. This has proven to be no easy task after a major hurricane.
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This year I’ve been privileged with the opportunity to attend the 2019 National Flood Conference in Washington D.C. The National Flood Conference is a three-day annual event for flood insurance industry professionals, and various other professionals whose industries overlap in some way with flood insurance (think mortgage lenders, insurance agents, mold remediators, attorneys, etc.). Over the course of the next few days I will provide day-by-day recaps of my experience at the National Flood Conference with my thoughts, opinions, and interesting things I’ve learned.
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I grew up in a United States Coast Guard family. One of the fondest two years of my life was when my father was stationed on the USCG Dependable and we lived in Panama City, Florida. I sailed in every nook and lagoon of St. Andrews Bay and raced sailboats like my life’s existence depended upon me winning races.
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In my last two posts I wrote about the threatened expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and stop-gap legislation that averted the lapse. NFIP’s authorization to operate is now extended to May 31, 2019. Despite the reauthorization legislation, FEMA announced it would halt NFIP’s authority to issue new and renewal flood policies until the full government reopens, citing the partial shut-down and lapse in appropriations.
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