Independent insurance agents are probably tired of saying this by now, but standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. Considering that as little as one inch of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage, getting caught without coverage can be costly.
In 2007, a survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found that more than 30% of U.S. heads of household with homeowners insurance mistakenly believe flood damage is covered by a standard homeowners policy. In 2017, a similar study by FEMA uncovered a similar statistic.
According to FEMA, if you live in an area with low or moderate flood risk, you are five times more likely to experience a flood than a fire in your home over the next 30 years, which means coverage is important for everybody—not just those who live in flood zones or are required to buy it by their mortgage lender.
One of the biggest misnomers about flood insurance “is that you can't get it unless you're in flood zone, but that's not true,” says Cynthia Gresham, president, Boyle Insurance Agency, Inc., Memphis in Tennessee. “We always recommend it and try to do a better job of getting the right message out there.”
“What we find is that some agents think that if a property is not in a hazardous flood zone, something other than a B, C or X zone, they will not experience a flood and therefore do not need flood insurance,’” explains Cassie Masone, vice president for flood operations, Selective Insurance. “Agents should always explain the importance of flood insurance regardless of what flood zone a property is in. The reality is that floods are happening everywhere and even in areas that have never flooded before.”
“Over the last 10 years, floods have occurred in all states,” she adds. “Let the insured be the educated buyer and allow them to say yes or no.”
If a client does buy a flood policy, there are plenty of ways that agents can be the trusted advisor and support their clients in the event of a flood. Here are three ways to expedite a flood claim:
1) Share details about the claims process. Both insureds and agents must understand the claim process. Especially from an NFIP perspective where “there's a lot of rules and regulations that we have to follow,” Masone says. “It's not a typical homeowners-claim-type process. Flood claims covered by an National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy must follow specific procedures and guidelines which may be different than the homeowner claim process.”
To help customers and agents understand the NFIP claim process better, Selective created a life of a claim video which is provided to each insured who reports a claim and the company also provides more information online.
The aftermath of a flood is a difficult time and many insureds have never had to submit a claim before. “They have no idea where or how to report the claim and they probably can't find any of their information in a flood,” Gresham says. “It's hard to communicate with all of our clients in a situation like that but we will try to put information about how to make a claim on Facebook and Twitter.”
A key flood preparation tip that should be shared with every insured is to document everything. “Customers should take photos of everything,” Masone says. “You can't take enough photos and remember, pre-damage photos are just as important as post-damage photos because they provide a picture of the property before the flood occurred.”
During the cleanup process, “it's imperative that the insured keeps receipts of anything that they've spent money on to repair or replace because that's the documentation that we need to pay the claim,” Masone adds.
2) Prepare your agency. When news of a hurricane or storm is communicated, agencies must take the opportunity to enact their disaster preparedness plan. If your business hasn’t created a plan, a template and risk assessment is available from the Agents Council for Technology.
“Every agency needs an emergency plan in place in case your building is affected so that you can still assist your customers in a time of need,” Gresham says. “That's when we need to be there and show that we're the trusted agent that clients can trust to handle their needs in a disaster.”
3) Partner with the right carrier. When potentially thousands of distraught customers are dealing with the loss of their home and possessions while simultaneously trying to submit a claim, agents need a carrier they can rely on.
Selective’s self-service website allows insureds or agents to submit a claim and upload supporting documentation quickly and easily. Getting information submitted quickly means that “we can start the claim process that much sooner,” Masone says. “Through our system, as soon as a claim is reported, it automatically gets assigned to an adjuster who will then reach out to the customer to discuss their claim and set up the appointment to inspect their damaged property.”
Live updates, advance ACH payments, 24/7 claims reporting and on-hand or in-person support staff are some of the other benefits that carriers can provide.
“If an agency is getting bombarded with questions about claims or flood insurance in general, our field staff is there to support them in any way possible including meeting with their staff to discuss the claim process or provide support with answering customer questions,” Masone says. “We also have staff located in our various offices around the country whose primary role is to provide our agency partners with the support they need to sell and manage flood insurance. ”
Will Jones is IA managing editor.
For more resources, read "FEMA Flood Disaster Guidelines Every Agent Should Know" by Jim Mahurin.