Colonial Claims is one of the largest independent insurance claims services companies in the U.S. Its team of more than 10,000 expert adjusters has handled more than $40 billion in damages from catastrophe and daily claims, many of them related to flooding.
Below, Colonial Claims President Doug Branham illuminates the challenges associated with assessing flood damage.
PC360: Describe a flood adjuster’s job for someone who may be unfamiliar with it.
Branham: The adjuster is the face of the carrier and has the responsibility of helping flood victims understand the terms and conditions of the insurance contract. The adjuster should explain coverage on the first communication and instruct the insured how to mitigate and minimize their loss from other subsequent damages like mold and mildew.
PC360: What are flood adjusters looking for when they assess property damage?
Branham: The first thing the adjuster does is determine a general condition of the insured property. The adjuster will take photos to document the damages and ask the insured for any they may have taken as well. Then, the adjuster prepares an estimate of covered damages on a room-by-room, item-by-item estimate.
PC360: How common is it for adjusters to interact with property owners whose flood coverage falls short?
Branham: This is not an uncommon event. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established to help flood victims but not necessarily make all the flood loss recoverable. For instance, there is restrictive coverage in basements and post-firm elevated buildings built after the Flood Insurance Rate Map was determined and the local community joined the flood program. Also, secondary homes, commercial properties, and all contents and personal property are recoverable at Actual Cash Value only, so there are many instances where the insured may have limited coverage.
PC360: What else would you like insurance professionals to know about the flood adjuster’s job?
Branham: The independent adjuster assigned any claim has a fiduciary relationship with both the insured and insurer to advise each party, without favoritism, of the covered damages and cost to repair.