Hurricane Season Is Looming: Are You Covered?

With only a month until the official start of hurricane season, and the courts full of Katrina lawsuits in Louisiana and Mississippi, FEMA is asking people to remember to buy flood insurance. Now, why would you need flood insurance? Wouldn't hurricane insurance do the trick? Won't your homeowners insurance cover you? Unfortunately, the answer to all those questions is no.

Just look at the cases that are before the courts now. Two big name insurers, State Farm and Allstate, are both arguing that claims were denied to hurricane victims because their homes were not damaged by the hurricane itself, but by storm surge, flood or wind! So FEMA is trying to warn you. While the current batch of litigations are going largely in favour of policyholders, new policy wording has been developed in the wake of big storms like Rita and Katrina that is likely to better protect the insurers, and not the insured.

Is this legal? Sure it is! Insurance is all about the wording of the policy. What your policy says delineates clearly what your insurer is responsible for, should you ever make a claim. It makes all the difference in the world.

Insurers, we all have to remember, are not in a charity business. They are selling you a "service", not a guaranteed product. The service they sell is financial; if you make a legitimate claim, they will pay it, less any deductible or ceiling on the benefit. If your claim does not fall within the boundaries of the policy wording, your claim will be denied.

So, if you live in hurricane prone areas, check your coverage carefully and buy any additional coverage that you need early. You can buy some kinds of protection privately. FEMA will sell you flood insurance if you can't get it elsewhere. However, most policies will not provide full coverage for a flood claim unless they have been in force for at least a month, and that includes any policy that you get from NFIP. Which means, the time to buy is now.

Monique L. Attinger 

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