Many of us have been thrilled at the sight of blooming buds and warmer temperatures, both signs that summer is upon us. However, the new season can bring with it a threat of natural disaster, from tornados to hail storms.
As we prepare for the upcoming storm season, we sometimes forget the importance of being ready for any water damage or flood damage that might strike our business or home. During my time as a litigator protecting clients’ assets all over the world, I have had conversations with many individuals who were shocked to learn those are two very different issues.
I will go through the variances between them in hopes of clearing up any confusion so we can best prepare ourselves in the case of flood or water damage.
Floods and the destruction they leave behind
What are the most common weather-related disasters and the second most common source of property damage from natural disasters? That’s right, floods, second only behind wildfires.
The simplest explanation for flood damage is water that comes from the ground; for example, through the bottom of the door. It might seem obvious, but it is important to note as we discuss the difference between flood damage and water damage later on.
What causes flooding? Well, floods happen due to an overflow from an existing body of water or extreme rainfall. They can occur slowly over time as the water rises or rather quickly. When the water rises too swiftly, known as a flash flood, it becomes very dangerous. Flash floods are caused by excessive rainfall exceeding the ground’s ability to absorb it, or by water overfilling bodies of water to a point the water rises rapidly over its shore.
Flooding not only can happen during times of heavy rainfall but from snow melting too fast or as a result of a dam levee breaking. Hurricanes, cyclones, tsunamis, rising sea levels, and public water incidents are also culprits of flooding. According to the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency, just one inch of flood damage can cause up to $25,000 in damage.
Loss from water damage
Water damage can transpire during a natural disaster, such as heavy rainfall from a hurricane, but while flood damage comes in from the ground, water damage enters the home through the walls or roof. Excessive winds open a hole in the wall, sending pouring rain into the structure.
Water damage can cause significant damage to a home or business and can take place outside of a natural disaster, too, such as when pipes burst, toilets clog, a roof leaks, sewage backs up, appliances leak, condensation occurs, and more.
The destruction water damage leaves in its wake can be detrimental to a property and its owners. Water damage can cause structural issues that leave costs quickly adding up. Consequences of water damage include mold, which can mean serious health issues for those exposed to it.
Decay is a good possibility after water damage, and those structures made from wood are susceptible to rot from abundant moisture. Decay can even lead to termites and carpenter ants. To top it all off, other tragedies such as fire and theft can occur from water damage to property.
The importance of knowing the difference
It might not seem like a big deal to know the distinctions between flood damage versus water damage, but understanding them can mean the difference in getting your business or home fixed — or not fixed at all.
Knowing what type of coverage we have and do not have can save a lot of heartaches — and money — down the road. General homeowners policies typically cover water damage, but a separate policy is needed for flood damage.
There are different rules on how to make a claim in regards to flood damage. For example, flood damage claims must be filed federally. This is because flood policies are written under the National Flood Insurance Program and the government is responsible for all claims.
It never hurts to make a claim on both policies, but property owners need to have a general idea of how the water entered the building. Fortunately for those who are unsure, a claims insurance lawyer can help determine the cause of the damage. Calling a lawyer can be the best first step because some insurance adjusters give misinformation when they come to look at a property. They do this because they are looking out for their best interest – not ours.
Mitigating the damage
Ensuring our property is protected from water damage and flood damage and knowing the difference between the two is the first step in preparing for the worst. It is vital to have a thorough plan in place. A plan followed by quick action is the best way to reduce the impact on our property.
I cannot emphasize enough how much time is of the essence should flood damage or water damage occur to our home or business. After any big storm, I recommend documenting the damage. I know it’s the last thing we want to do when reeling from the aftermath of a disaster, but it can make all the difference in having our property’s repairs covered.
Be aware that just as adjusters can be dishonest, the insurance company might try tactics to limit payment even on the most valid claims. It’s not personal, it’s just business to them.
Choosing a lawyer skilled in the tactics companies often use to get out of paying us what we deserve will be one of the best decisions we can make. While the insurance company might not make it personal, for many lawyers it is personal. I want to put my clients on the road to recovery after suffering through a major life event such as flood damage or water damage to a business or home and ensure they get the claims funds they rightly deserve.