FEMA deadline approaches for Harvey flood victims

Published 10:16 am Monday, August 20, 2018

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader

Home and business owners need to move fast in order to submit Proof of Loss (POL) forms to FEMA by the August 25thdeadline.  If the forms are not submitted by the deadline a policyholder’s claim will be closed, and the policyholder will lose all of their rights to seek additional flood insurance proceeds owed to them.

According to Raj Pandit of Pandit Law, “Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas need to know their rights, and they need to act immediately because August 25th is fast approaching.  It’s important to not wait until the last minute to try to complete the forms, because there may be elements that are confusing, or that require the guidance of an attorney or adjuster.  Because there is no margin for error, and because time is of the essence, policyholders need to act now.”

Pandit and his team urge the Texas Insurance Commissioner, Kent Sullivan, to request from FEMA a Proof of Loss extension.  FEMA has granted POL extensions well beyond one year in other recent catastrophic flood events.

When Superstorm Sandy struck the east coast resulting in 144,000 flood claims, the final POL was 24 months after the initial storm. The Louisiana Great Flood in 2016 had 29,544 flood claims and the final POL after all extensions was 16 months.

The number of flood claims from Harvey are in excess of 91,000 and the final POL remains 12 months after the devastating storm.

As a survivor of Hurricane Katrina himself, Raj Pandit personally knows the struggle of disaster recovery. He has advocated for victims from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike, Gustav, Sandy, and Harvey. Pandit has extensive experience with flood, tornado, and first-party property claims involving accident-based damage. He currently represents hundreds of homeowners who were affected by the historic Louisiana flooding of August 2016.

“The first deadline is 12 months after the water physically touched your house,” Pandit said. “When a major storm is in the Gulf, it can be extended on the front end. Flood insurance adjusters have 60 days but with a major event, it could take 60 days to get an adjuster.”

To make the process smoother, Pandit said, “Documentation, documentation, documentation.”

He suggests using one’s cell phone to video the inside and outside of one’s home when a storm is in the Gulf.

“Nothing beats live video,” Pandit said. “Adjusters get 100 files overnight after an event. Those with documentation get paid higher and faster.”

Once the deadline has passed, the insurance company no longer has an obligation to pay.

“Any threat of lawsuit has zero chance after the deadline,” Pandit said. “That is why it is so important for the deadline to be extended. Louisiana had a quarter of the claims and had a four month extension.”