Thousands of people are currently dealing with the devastating flooding in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas. Here are a few pieces of information that may assist you as you begin to recover from this event:
- Do your best to document your property damage claim as best you can. Take as many pictures of the damage as possible, whether of your house, commercial building, personal contents or inventory. These photos will be your proof of damage for whatever damage claim you are able to make, whether through your insurance company or otherwise.
- Similarly, try and compile whatever pictures you can of your house or business, and its contents, from before the flood. To the extent, there is a dispute of whether a specific item was damaged or not, or even existed in the home or building before the flood, these pictures will be invaluable.
- As soon as possible, attempt to itemize all of the contents in your home. A handwritten list is fine. Go through each room and attempt to list out every one of your possessions. Try and identify the make or model of each item, what you paid for it, and how old it is. Some insurance companies will require this specific information before you will be paid for each item. Of course, it is unlikely that you will have purchase documents for each item in your possession. Although this type of documentation is not required to prove your claim, it is obviously helpful for the insurance company to process it.
- Keep records of what you spend to live elsewhere, including food and toiletries. If you rent a hotel room or are required to rent a house, make sure to keep records of what you pay.
- Likewise, keep good records of any expenses you incur to repair your home or business. An organized and well-documented insurance or property damage claim is always better received and more quickly processed than one that is not.
- With respect to insurance claims, and to the extent the policy provides coverage for your specific loss, an insurance company has an obligation, by law, to pay all undisputed amounts to you within a certain period of time. In other words, your insurance company has to at least pay you for everything that is undisputed. If there is a legitimate dispute over something, the insurance company can withhold payment for those items but must pay you for the items for which there is no disagreement. If the insurance company does withhold payment without a legitimate reason or fails to pay you within a certain amount of time, it may be responsible for certain statutory penalties and costs. You will need to discuss this with an attorney if you feel your insurance company is not treating you fairly.
- To this point, because the insurance company must pay all undisputed amounts if there remain any disputed items, do not sign anything until the claim is fully resolved. You are not required to sign anything to receive any undisputed money under your policy.
- If you have flood insurance, depending on the policy language, you may be eligible to receive immediate, emergency payments. Ask your insurance company what your policy provides, but do not assume what you are told is correct. Ask for a copy of your policy and read it for yourself.
- To date, President Obama has made available federal disaster aid to residents of the parishes of East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Tangipahoa, and St. Helena. If you do not have flood insurance, you should immediately register with FEMA. You can also call FEMA at 800-621-3362. More information about the available federal assistance, including those for some businesses, can be found here.
- The Louisiana State Bar Association and the Baton Rouge Bar Association will be providing free legal services to assist anyone with any legal issues arising from this disaster. For now, you can call the LSBA at 504-566-1600 or 800-421-5722 or the BRBA at 225-344-4803. More information will be disseminated as efforts are further coordinated.
Hopefully, this information will provide you with a little bit of information about the property damage claim process.