While some areas sustained substantial wind damages from Hurricane Irene, a large portion of the losses are related to floods caused by the storm. Anyone insured through the National Flood Insurance Program should read their policies carefully and pay close attention to the time requirements mandated in the provisions.
Most notably, the Standard Flood Insurance Policy requires that an insured submitting a flood claim provide a sworn statement in proof of loss within sixty (60) days of the date the loss occurs. Unlike many commercial and residential policies, this requirement is mandatory and must be done even if the carrier does not request it.
The repercussions for failing to abide by this requirement can be harsh. Courts have held, almost unanimously, that failing to comply voids the policy and relieves the Program from making any payments to the insured regardless of the claim’s validity. See Dawkins v. Witt, 318 F.3d 606 (4th Cir.2003); Mancini v. Redland Ins. Co., 248 F.3d 729 (8th Cir.2001); Flick v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 205 F.3d 386 (9th Cir.2000); Gowland v.Aetna, 143 F.3d 951 (5th Cir.1998); Phelps v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, 785 F.2d 13 (1st Cir.1986).
Furthermore, the Flood Insurance Program rarely waives its right to obtain a proof of loss within sixty (60) days. Absent a written waiver by the Federal Insurance Administrator, no actions or representations by an adjuster, employee, or claims handler can relieve an insured of this obligation. Even if a policyholder relies on an adjuster’s, employee’s, or claims handler’s representations in failing to submit a sworn proof of loss, coverage will likely still be void.
With the prevalence of flood damages resulting from Hurricane Irene, it is important for associations and unit owners to be proactive. Contact your flood providers early and often, ask for a certified copy of your policy, request that all necessary forms be faxed or emailed immediately, and begin estimating the damages. By working quickly, you can ensure coverage for damages and can hopefully restore your property quickly.