Use caution when settling flood claims

Fourth of a four-part series

The Missouri Bar Association urges flood victims who were asked by insurance companies to sign a release or waiver to use caution. Signing such documents may not be in a flood victim’s best interest, and only a lawyer can know for sure.

Another time to consult a lawyer is when victims receive checks from insurance companies that may be considered full and final payment. Don’t cash them before speaking to an attorney.

Claimants must be sure of the full extent of damage as well as the full value claim. Before accepting an insurance company’s check, be sure to have an estimate of the cost of the repair work. Sometimes, it may be necessary to complete repairs before costs can be determined.

If insurance companies deny claims of offer less than claimants believe they deserve, there are several options. First demand that the insurance company provide a written explanation for denying coverage or limiting claims. Victims who want to bring a law suit against insurance companies have al limited amount of time to bring suit. Usually, claimants have one year from the damage to file suit. Although victims may be well covered, insurance companies will only reimburse for reasonable repair costs. If a repair estimate seems high, be sure to get other estimates. Reimbursement is limited, and anyone who goes above that limit, pays the difference.

Insurance coverage may not reimburse for all damages, even if costs are reasonable. Those who are not able to pay for the repair or replacement of essential parts of their homes may be eligible for disaster relief benefits fro the federal government. Check with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-462-9029 (for the hearing and speech impaired, 1-800-462-7585).

Keep receipts for everything that was repaired or replaced. When computing taxes next year, file loses on income tax returns.