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Floods are one of the most common natural disasters in the nation, destroying property and sweeping away vehicles -- sometimes within minutes. Many don't think to ask "Does car insurance cover flood damage?" until they're faced with the situation themselves, and that's not when drivers want to find out they're missing key protections. Here's what everyone should know about flood damage coverage for car insurance.
Drivers looking to protect their vehicle against flood and water damage should give comprehensive coverage a closer look.
Comprehensive coverage is the only type of car insurance that offers protection against floods. It also pays for vehicle repairs needed due to storm and hail damage, theft, vandalism, and animal-vehicle collisions. This is an optional protection, but many lessors and lenders require it if the driver has a lease or loan on the vehicle.
Paired with collision coverage and state-mandated liability insurance, comprehensive coverage becomes part of a bundle many refer to as "full coverage." This protects the driver's vehicle and any other people or property they damage in an accident.
However, comprehensive coverage only protects against unforeseen damages. Water damage that occurs because a driver left their car parked outside with the windows down and sunroof open during a major storm isn't covered under comprehensive coverage or any other part of a car insurance policy.
Homeowners looking to protect themselves against flood damage must purchase a separate flood insurance policy because a standard home insurance policy doesn't protect against floods. But unfortunately, flood insurance policies don't offer any protection for vehicles.
However, if a driver has personal items in their vehicle that incur water damage, these might be covered under a flood insurance policy. Check the terms of the flood insurance policy to see what it does and doesn't cover and reach out to the insurer with any questions.
If you're not sure how much car insurance you have, it's a good idea to check the terms of the policy to find out if it includes comprehensive coverage. If not, it might be worth adding. It's best not to put this off. Insurers can impose binding limitations before a serious impending storm, like a hurricane, which prevents customers from adding comprehensive coverage to their policy until after the storm is over.
Adding comprehensive coverage is pretty simple. Drivers can contact their current insurer to inquire about adding it or they can get quotes from other companies to see if they offer a better deal. The cost will depend on several factors, including the driver's record and the vehicle make and model.
If adding this coverage isn't financially feasible, the driver will need to take steps to avoid flood damage because they won't be fully protected. This might include getting cracks and leaky seals fixed promptly and not parking the car in low-lying areas when avoidable.
Filing a car insurance claim for flood damage is the same as filing any other type of car insurance claim. Here are the steps drivers should follow.
Drivers should take photos showing the extent of the damage to the vehicle. They can submit this along with their claim form to their insurer.
Avoid doing anything that could make the damage to the vehicle even worse. Starting the car, for example, could lead to water damage to the engine.
Try to get the vehicle towed and remove as much water from it as possible. It can also be helpful to take the vehicle to a mechanic to see if any of its fluids need draining.
Notify the insurance company as soon as possible to get the claims process going. Be prepared with details about the incident and the insurance policy, including:
Drivers may be able to reach out by phone or in person, depending on the insurance company. Many insurers now offer online claims forms as well, which drivers can submit at any time. They can also track the progress of their claim.
The insurance company will send one of their adjusters out to look at the damages. The adjuster will determine whether the policy covers the claim and, if so, how much the insurance company should pay to repair the damages.
Once the insurance company has completed its assessment, it will pay to repair the damage to the vehicle, assuming it's a covered claim. The driver can choose where they want the vehicle repaired and the insurance company will cut them a check for the damage, minus the car insurance policy deductible.
Car insurance companies often raise a driver's rates after they've filed a car insurance claim. Flood damage to a vehicle may be due to an unplanned event rather than negligence on the driver's part, but insurance premiums aren't based on driving habits alone.
Companies also take into account the likelihood of natural disasters occuring in the driver's area. Those who live near the coast, for example, may pay higher rates because there's an increased risk of hurricanes and flood damage to their cars. That's not a driver's fault, but it represents an increased risk that the insurer will have to pay out. So to hedge these bets, they charge these drivers more.
Full coverage car insurance -- which is generally defined as state-mandated liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage -- does include protection from flood damage. This falls under comprehensive coverage, which protects against all manner of storm damage, theft, vandalism, and animal-vehicle collisions.
Car insurance can cover water damage, but it depends on which protections the driver chooses and the reason for the damage. The insurer won't pay for any water damage unless the driver adds comprehensive coverage to their policy. And even then, the policy only protects against water damage due to unforeseen circumstances, like a storm. It doesn't protect against damages due to owner error, like leaving the sunroof open while it's raining.
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