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Vancouver, Washington

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Don Jacobs
Don Jacobs
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Insurance and flood damage

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What a winter we’ve had so far. Alarming amounts of snow and now the pineapple express blasting us with lots of rain and warm air. Freeways are flooded, passes are closed and rivers are swelling over their banks. So far it isn’t as bad as in 1996, but the season is still young. Many will recall the extreme floods the region suffered in 1996. Many homeowners and small business people had large property losses. Unfortunately, people learned back then that the typical homeowner policy doesn’t cover flood damage. Nor do they typically cover damage caused by earth movement or landslides.

Rising ground water, runoff and seepage also are not covered under a standard homeowner policy. This includes water from creeks or streams that overflow as well as runoff caused by a clogged street drain. When people sought to purchase coverage after the floods many found their companies wouldn’t provide it. Flood insurance was still available but it was expensive and difficult to obtain. And good luck finding a company to cover you if your property was in a designated floodplain. When it was provided, carriers significantly increased the deductible. Special endorsements were attached to the policy excluding coverage except in strictly defined situations. Companies inserted policy language that may cover flooding, but excluded coverage for landslides or earth movement. But flooding can sometimes cause banks to give way and undermine structures. Is that flood damage or earth movement? Heavy rains can saturate hillsides creating unstable slopes. Is that brown slurry flowing against and causing damage to the back of your house water damage? Or damage from a landslide? If you are lucky enough to have flood coverage what happens if a nearby river overflows and destroys your home? Do you have any recourse? As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. You have to carefully read your policy. Contact your agent immediately. Make a claim. Your insurance company is obligated to either accept or deny the claim within a reasonable time. If the claim is denied, they have to provide an explanation of why the denial is appropriate under the applicable law and policy language given the facts of your case.