It can happen with very little notice. There is a torrent of rain or some other disaster that causes a flood and completely destroys your vehicle. Not to worry, right. That’s what insurance was invented for. But are you sure that your car insurance covers flooding? You might be surprised if you examine your policy.
What Are the Odds of Experiencing a Flood?
Your chances of actually being caught in a flood are higher than you think. Most people cite this as the main reason that they don’t specifically find out about flood insurance, or purchase flood insurance separately if they don’t already have it. They think that the odds of being in a flood are roughly the same as being hit by a meteor the size of New Jersey, but the odds are actually pretty good that you’ll experience a flood one day, and the chances that it will happen sometime in the next year aren’t that far off either.
Floods are measured in cyclic measurements to denote their strength. For example, there is a 25-year flood, 50-year flood and a 100-year flood. What this basically means is that floods are inevitable and the longer that you are on this planet, the stronger the flood that you’ll likely experience. Of course, these numbers do vary a little from area to area, but they are an average for the United States.
Think about this: You carry car insurance because you might have an accident one day. In fact, the odds are so good that you’ll have an accident, that the law says you must carry basic liability insurance to legally operate a vehicle in the United States. But your chances of being caught in a 25-year flood are actually better than your chances of having a car accident. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that you have about a 4% chance of being in a 25-year flood, but only a 3% of having a car accident, and your chances of being in a 50-year or 100-year flood aren’t much better, with a 2% and 1% chance respectively.
So, odds are good that you’ll need the flood insurance that we’re going to discuss.
What Is Flood Insurance?
Just what is flood insurance exactly and what does it cover? The answer to that will vary a little with the different policies, but in general, flood insurance claims are either for a specific amount of damage or declared a total loss, which means that the car will have to be replaced rather than repaired.
If you do have flood insurance as part of your policy, you’ll want to file your claim as quickly as possible. Depending upon your insurance company, you can file over the phone, online or via a smartphone app. Your vehicle could be declared a total loss for a couple of different reasons: an example is a flood that involved saltwater. If your vehicle is exposed to saltwater, you may not know that the vehicle is damaged, but your car will not last long with saltwater damage.
If your vehicle is indeed classified as a total loss, you will have some specific options that your insurance adjustor will talk to you about.
One thing that you should be aware of if you have a total loss vehicle and you decide you are going to fix it up and drive it anyway, you might not be able to get a comprehensive policy again on your vehicle. This is because it will be issued what is called a “salvage title” and that will often keep it from certain types of insurance coverage. Even if you are able to get insurance for your salvaged vehicle, you may have to pay huge premiums because the insurance company will deem a car with a salvage title to be a major risk.
How to Know if You Are Protected
Most of the time, if you want to be protected from a flood, you will need to go with comprehensive coverage, where fire, theft and of course, floods, are covered. Liability, or collision coverage, generally does not cover floods, but you might still have a clause in your insurance contract that could help you receive money for repairs, so check your policy carefully.
Steps to Take When Your Car is Damaged in a Flood
- The first thing that you’ll have to do if your car is damaged in a flood is call your insurance company. If you have a comprehensive insurance policy, you might get a check to replace your car, but if you only have basic coverage, it is likely that the most you’ll get is some money for repairs, which may not even be possible. Be patient and work with your insurance adjustor throughout the process.
- The second thing that you’ll want to do is get documentation as quickly as possible. If your car is completely underwater, you want to make sure that you get pictures, and even if it isn’t, you’ll still want good pictures. Take as many pictures as you can, from many different angles, including pictures of the license plate.
- Third, try to minimize the damage as much as possible, especially any future damage that could happen. For example, if water is coming in through a broken window, tape it up and don’t let any more water in. Also, make sure that you keep track of anything you spend on the car, because you might be able to get reimbursed if you can prove that you actually bought those things.
Don’t try to start the car if it was under water. Check the seats or the floorboards to see if they are still damp if you are checking the car after the water has gone all the way down. Also, do not start the car if the air filter is wet.
Finally, be aware that cars are not meant to get wet, and you might have serious problems down the road getting the car back up and running long-term. In many cases, a replacement vehicle will be required.