Last fall, Hurricane Matthew destroyed almost everything in its path from the Caribbean to the Southeast United States. It pummeled Haiti, eastern Cuba, the Bahamas, and the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. It was the first Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Hurricane Matthew took 585 lives, mostly in Haiti, and led to extreme storm surges and flooding in the U.S.

Storm reports recorded a peak surge of 9.88 feet above average at Fernandina Beach, Florida, on October 7, 2016. Anastasia Island, Flagler Beach, and the St. Augustine area were others that experienced flooding due to the storm. The hurricane caused record high water levels in the St. Johns River in Florida, with the river flowing backwards early in the morning on October 8th. If Hurricane Matthew damaged or destroyed your property, here’s how to handle your insurance claims.

About the National Flood Insurance Program

The typical homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Instead, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) makes this type of insurance available. You may also be able to obtain flood insurance through private insurers – although this information will not help you if your home has already sustained damage from Hurricane Matthew. The NFIP offers up to $250,000 in coverage for the structure of your home and $100,000 for personal possessions. Greater coverage is available for higher monthly premiums.

If you choose to rebuild your home, the NFIP will provide replacement cost coverage for your home’s structure but actual cash value for damaged possessions. The NFIP will only pay to rebuild your home as it was, not with updates or upgrades. There may be limits on coverage for older possessions and furniture and belongings you stored in your basement prior to the hurricane. If you live in a designated flood zone, you must carry NFIP insurance as a renter or homeowner. Living inland, however, makes flood insurance optional.

Filing a Claim for Hurricane Flood Damage

After hurricane flood damage, your first step should be to call your NFIP agent and ask about your coverage. Document the damage to your home’s foundation and your possessions. Take photos of damage if possible, including photos of standing floodwater levels. Make a list of all lost, damaged, and destroyed possessions, along with their value and purchase receipts if possible. Once you have a detailed list of your losses and their estimated values, you can begin the claims process.

You will need to file a Proof of Loss form, or a document that states how much money you’re requesting for your home’s damages. This form is not the same as a claim. It is simply a declaration requesting coverage for your losses. You may also need to supply documentation to support the amount you’re initially requesting. You need to file your Proof of Loss within 60 days of the date of flood damage. Call the NFIP claims center at (800) 621-3362 to start this process.

In the event that your NFIP policy has expired, know that you remain covered for 30 days after the date of expiration. Check your effective term and speak with an agent if you’re not sure whether you are eligible for coverage due to an expired policy. After you file your Proof of Loss, an NFIP insurance agent may contact you for more details about your losses. Prepare to wait longer for the insurer to process your claim after Hurricane Matthew since you’ll be one of hundreds of people filing such claims. You’ll receive a claim payment to cover your losses after your insurer agrees on the value of your damages. At this point, you can conduct repairs on your home and start to move on after a natural disaster.