Help - Navigating a natural disaster

Being in the Houston area, Harvey has been catastrophic for many of my friends and family of various means. The worst is looking a total loss of house, property, 12+ cars, etc.

Any useful tips or tricks for navigating the damage, maximizing the insurance payouts, etc.?

This is an unusual disaster because many people did not have flood insurance , or were not in flood zones , so only losses due to wind would be covered .

For cars, flooding is generally covered only if you purchased comprehensive coverage or a "full coverage " policy . Since flooding typically will Total a car out , an insurer is supposed to find you a comparable car that’s listed for sale and pay you enough to buy it . Often the comparables don’t exist or are in worse condition , counter the insurer with three comparables you’ve located . They should be the same model year and model /trim
Package with similar mileage .

There are situations where a car had minor flood damage and the insurer will not total the car . The insurance industry is designed to lowball claims and operates on what I consider to be the scam of the initial incomplete estimate and then followed by several supplements .

If a minor flood car is taken to the shop and an insurer elects to repair rather than total it , often there will be several supplements and additional repairs required once underway. The final bill may even end up more than if they totaled the car ! But the insurer will never hand you a check for that full cost to repair / rather than do that, They will issue a check for the initial incomplete estimate only , based on their knowledge the insured will fix the car themselves or never fix the car , so the insurer gets off cheap and never has to pay those supplemental bills

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Yes this is a bad one. I know people with significant losses with no coverage to maximum limits and everything between.

Some of them are using (or are considering using) public adjusters at something like a 10% commission of insurance payouts. This strikes me as quite high, but taking into account the whole situation (stress, emotional issues, having to keep track of so many things at once), it seems like it could pay for itself. Anyone have experience using these services?

My one particular friend with total house and contents loss (single story home, flooded 6+ feet) and 12+ cars was to my knowledge as fully insured as possible with full and flood coverages. But he is complaining about shenanigans from multiple insurers not wanting to send adjusters, or they come but don’t want to document the damage or won’t thoroughly document it, etc. Any good tips for forcing their hand with these games?

Document everything , video record the shenanigans if possible , don’t sign any releases when receiving the payment , and after he’s received all the payouts his insurers voluntarily provide , it might be time to start looking into a bad faith insurance lawsuit . Most attorneys that take these type of claims do so on contingency so they only take strong cases .

Adjusters are in super high demand what with both hurricanes. I heard the insurers (or maybe the customers?) were paying 30% premiums to regular adjuster salaries to get them to come over from TX to FL. I don’t doubt cheap insurance company tactics, but there is a real shortage and if you want to get your claims underway sooner, someone has to pay a premium for that.

In terms of other Houston tips, I hear there’s a lot of money going into RE fix-and-flip for the flooded houses, together with conferences about how to politely take advantage of these distressed and possibly uninsured homeowners who got flooded badly, ie lowball them.

Another good move, too late now, was to buy nice RE properties that were in good, unflooded condition immediately afterwards. Rich people who got flooded are still looking at months of repair and remediation on their homes and some just bought a new place in the meanwhile. In particular, if you want your repairs done by the top contractors, those guys aren’t going to be available at all for six months at least, so you might as well buy a new place and live there instead of some apartment while you wait.

Yeah. Post Katrina the New Orleans and Baton Rouge rents doubled from people with insured losses that had generous loss of use coverage taking up temporary housing. Also, high occupancy at area hotels due to thousands of people with FEMA vouchers.

One other piece of advice. If you have money, you’re in a position of strength during this. Don’t wait around based on cash flow issues from an insurer to get on with your life. Get a new car, temp housing, whatever and duke it out later with your insurers. And God help you if you’re not…

And keep an eye out for mental health, depression or PTSD issues. There is no shame in it, and it’s extremely common after a natural disaster, myself included