Water Damage Claims Tips & Help For Policyholders In NC, SC, & VA

If you just had a water damage event happen and you need tips, keep reading. However, if you know you need help or advice contact us today in North Carolina for an estimate.

There are many ways a property can suffer from water damage. Water can affect a home or building from a ruptured water heater, sewage backup, toilet, sink or tub overflows, leaky dishwasher, washing machines and hoses, frozen or ruptured pipes, and even wind-driven rain from a storm event. Whichever cause of the loss that may have occurred at your property, most water damage is covered by your policy.

A common mistake by policyholders is that they are under the impression that flood damage is considered water damage. However, they are totally different claim types. Water damage claims are covered by your policy and flood damage claims are excluded under property insurance policies. Never call your insurance company and claim that you have a flood when you do not. Always say you have water damage.

The absolute most important thing you are required to do as outlined in your policy is to protect your property from any further damages:

We will pay the reasonable cost incurred by you for the necessary measures taken solely to protect covered property that is damaged by a Peril Insured Against from further damage.

In a water damage situation, this means you must take action to prevent the spreading of moisture that will cause additional swelling of building materials and/or mold and bacteria growth.

Keep in mind, this is your responsibility. You must protect from further damage. The insurance company will pay whatever it costs to do so, however, you need to arrange proper mitigation and drying of your property. The removal of water-damaged materials and the drying of the property must begin immediately. However, be careful who you choose. Personally, we do not recommend using a drying company referred by your insurance company. Those companies have a history of showing loyalty to the insurance company’s checkbook and not really looking out for you. Feel free to call us in North Carolina at 919-400-6440 for an unbiased referral.

It’s Important To Know That You As The Policyholder, Do Not Have To Use The Contractors Suggested Or Referred By Your Insurance Company. It’s Your Property, Your Claim, Your Money, And Your Choice!

In addition, how you go about handling the water damage to your property within the first 24 hours will be critical to the outcome of your claim. For example, we often see field adjusters sent out by the insurance company that are not trained in water damage losses. They neglect to apply simple water mitigation rules like the removal of drywall, baseboards, tile floors, and other finishes. Such neglect prevents air to properly circulate behind wall cavities where mold and bacteria can grow. Wet carpet always needs to be pulled up or discarded. Carpet pad needs to be removed as it heavily absorbs water and can harbor bacteria that will also turn to mold. Your adjuster is not trained in water damage mitigation.

It’s not hard to understand that most people do not understand the effects of water damage or even understand the water damage claim process itself. Simply because it’s something that you may only go through once in a lifetime. It’s for this reason you should have professionals assisting you with such damage. If improperly handled, water can cause significant and costly damages and/or sickness in your home or building. There are different types of water as well as different levels of damage to consider.

Category 1: Fresh Water from a busted pipe, uncontaminated.
Category 2: Dirty Water from a washing machine, dishwasher, slightly contaminated.
Category 3: Black Water from a dirty toilet, entry from outside of the home, highly contaminated.

All water can become contaminated in as little as a few hours depending on the circumstances. Yes, even fresh, clean water can affect the health of your home and family if not addressed and treated properly. Fresh water can become Black Water rather quickly. The process of handling each category of water is completely different and requires special care and treatment. Black Water from sewage carries several toxins that are released into your home or business. When your insurance adjuster suggests that you merely need to dry this type of moisture, you’re putting people at risk without consulting a professional. The photo to your right shows mold that grew and spread behind kitchen cabinets from a dishwasher leak. The adjuster insisted the water could not have gotten behind the cabinets. As you can see, the insurance company adjuster was uneducated on how water can wick and spread. There are life, health, and safety issues that need to be addressed when cleaning and drying a Black Water situation.

So, again, for most people who have had no prior experience in how to handle an insurance claim, their policy and its language can be very confusing and frustrating to deal with. To obtain fair and accurate compensation for your water damage claim, it is highly recommended to discuss your situation with an experienced claim professional that can advise you of all your options. With such, you will be able to make informed, educated decisions on how to move forward and how to obtain the maximum payout you are entitled to for your loss.

Finally, the mere fact that water damage claims are the most frequent type of insurance claim submitted to carriers nationwide and are also the most costly to the insurance industry, we are noticing more and more insurance companies attempting to shift costs to the policyholder. They are generating ways to do so even knowing that their policies cover these losses. There is even a new tactic of inserting language in the policy that states any water loss reported after a period of 14 days will be excluded from coverage. Does this sound as if your insurance company is looking out for your best interests? If your water damage claim has coverage from days one through thirteen, how can the insurance company say that your water damage is NOT covered after that? This can be devastating to a policyholder. Get assistance! Do not attempt to battle this type of scrupulous activity on your own.

Water Damage Claim Tips And Help For Homeowners And Business Owners That Have Property Damage From Water

Knowing what to do may not be as important as knowing what NOT to do when it comes to water damage. Below is a list of Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to water damage claim situations.

What To Do:

  • Call a Public Adjuster for proper claims handling and advice.
  • Take photographs showing damages before cleaning or removing anything.
  • Mop or towel up as much excess water as much as possible.
  • Mop up water from wood furniture.
  • Pin draperies up off the floor as soon as possible.
  • Pin furniture and bed skirts up off the floor as soon as possible.
  • Remove and/or prop-up any wet upholstery cushions for drying.
  • Check furniture, drapes, carpets, and rugs for bleeding colors and remove as necessary.
  • Place clear wrap, aluminum foil, coasters or unfinished wood blocks under furniture legs to keep from bleeding or rust transfer to wet carpet or floors.
  • Remove any throw-rugs from wet wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Open wet kitchen, bathroom, and furniture drawers and doors for complete drying. However, do not force them open, which could cause more damage.
  • Remove any and all valuable items that can be affected by moisture to a safe location. Such as oil paintings, art objects, furs, silks, etc.
  • Soak up excessive water on carpets with clean white towels.
  • Place wet boxes, suitcases, or bins in sunlight if possible. Open them for increased drying.
  • Use a screwdriver to push small holes in any sagging ceilings to release trapped water.
  • Use a bucket or trash can to catch the excess water.
  • Protect yourself against contact with sewer and sewage contaminated items. Wear gloves, boots, goggles, protective clothing, and respirator if you absolutely have to clean or handle contaminated items. Contact your doctor if you have any adverse health problems.

What NOT To Do:

  • Leave wet fabric on beds, in closets, drawers, etc. in place – hang-dry right away.
  • Hang leather or fur coats to dry at room temperature.
  • Leave any color items like magazines, books, or newspapers on wet flooring or carpet.
  • Use a household grade vacuum to remove water.
  • Use a wet/dry vac as electric shock could occur.
  • Eat any foods or touch cans that may be contaminated or exposed to sewage.
  • Turn on fans or dehumidifiers that could spread contaminants throughout the building.
  • Use any electronics exposed to moisture or while you are standing on wet surfaces.
  • Use any electrical items while standing on concrete floors.
  • Turn on any ceiling fans under wet ceilings.
  • Hang around rooms with sagging or collapsed ceilings from standing water.
  • Turn on an HVAC system that has been directly contacted by water.
  • Turn on an HVAC system that could spread airborne contaminants.
  • Remain in a home or building exposed to a sewer backup situation.
  • Remain in a wet home or building if you have respiratory problems.
  • Remain in a wet home or building if you have allergies or asthma.
  • Remain in a wet home or building if you live with anyone under the age of two.
  • Remain in a wet home or building if you live with anyone over the age of 60.
  • Remain in a wet home or building if you have had a weakened immune system.
  • Remain in a wet home or building if you have had an illness or taking medication.

Water Damage ClaimsObtaining Help With Your Water Damage Claim

It can be disheartening when you pay insurance for years and you’re under the impression that you will be taken care of in your time of need, only to find out that the second catastrophe is dealing with your insurance company after you have incurred damages to your property. Your insurance adjuster has advised that they are paying you a specific amount for your water damage claim. Yet, your contractor’s estimate is significantly higher. It can be a rather frustrating battle.

This has become the biggest problem we hear from policyholders. They feel that they have become caught in the middle of their insurance adjuster and contractor. The question becomes, “How do I know if my insurance company is trying to low-ball me, or if this contractor is trying to sell me more than I need?” It’s for this reason you should consider an unbiased claim damage inspection of your property. Not doing so can cost you thousands of dollars.

What Is The Most Costly Water Damage Mistake Made By Most Policyholders?

It’s hard to imagine that almost all policyholders who have suffered water-related damages to their property are depending solely upon their insurance company’s assessment of the damages to their home or business. Policyholders allow the insurance company adjuster to inspect their home or building, estimate the loss and amount of damages all without asking any questions and without asking or consulting another professional to review their water damage claim as well!

Every day really smart people who are professional accountants, doctors, lawyers, and teachers are willingly accepting insurance adjuster’s calculations for water damage claims. They blindly relinquish their full trust to an adjuster who works and has loyalty to their insurance provider. Time and time again this happens without obtaining any assistance or consulting with an insurance claim specialist. This is and will forever be the most costly mistake people could ever make when dealing with their insurance claims. It’s bad enough that you have suffered the damages to your property, to then just surrender all common sense and rely on an adjuster who is not really there to take care of you, just doesn’t make sense. This one person visits your property, inspects your water-related damage, they generate a biased valuation of the loss, and you should just trust that this adjuster has your best interest in mind.

Does This Make Any Real Sense?

Incredibly, policyholders permit this to happen on most water damage claims. For the majority of us, it’s human nature to be mindful and cautious of scams, we even count our “change” at the grocery store checkout line, as well as diligently check over our restaurant receipts to see if our waiter tried to add food or drinks to our bill. Surprisingly, we will go totally out of our way to calculate and value the “small potatoes” in our life. Yet, when it comes to a claim that can potentially cost tens-of-thousands or hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in damage, we will confide in an insurance adjuster that has been assigned to calculate the damages for both sides. Where would you expect that the adjuster’s loyalty and commitment lies? To you, or the insurance company they work for?

No individual is as in tune or knows your property as the owner is. Really, who knows your property better than you? In a water damage situation, there are things needed to prepare and properly calculate your claim. In most cases, items and details are omitted or missed by the adjuster, the property owner, and their contractor during the claim process. Each is an expert at their own job or career. However, is your adjuster a water damage expert? Costly mistakes are made by insurance adjusters on a daily basis. Now imagine your entire claim is all prepared and calculated solely by a representative of your insurance company.

Your insurance adjuster doesn’t really know everything about your home or building. If you have suffered water intrusion, the adjuster doesn’t really know everything about your contents (furniture, clothing, etc.) like you do. How can an insurance company adjuster possibly be as accurate about your property and belongings than you? In addition, just because the insurance company sends an adjuster to visit and inspect your property, does not automatically make them an expert builder, contractor, or even certified in water damage restoration.

As North Carolina insurance claim professionals since 1998, For The Public Adjusters has reviewed thousands of claims and have found that both insurance adjusters, policyholders, and contractors have unknowingly and will often miss hidden damages caused by water. The fact is that in almost all instances, it is better to have a qualified and certified water damage representative review your claim. Our Public Adjusters are IICRC Certified in water damage restoration, have been insurance damage contractors and are licensed insurance adjusters. We know both sides and are experts on both sides. You should consider speaking with and using a qualified expert that will be looking out for your best interests. After all, it’s free to simply speak with someone to get a feel for where you stand. Call us today at (919-400-6440).