Auto Expert: Flood and Hurricane Auto Damage? Don’t Be Victimized Twice!

Flood and Hurricane Auto Damage? Don’t Be Victimized Twice!

From, Buttoned Up’s Auto Expert

Each year millions of Americans are subjected to random and often devastating natural disasters. Whether from wildfires, floods, mudslides, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wind and hail storms — no part of the country is immune from Mother Nature’s reach — nor her wrath.

While the nation’s property and casualty insurance companies — nearly 1,100 of them are members of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) — work hard to get victims back on their financial feet as rapidly as possible, disasters also spawn many darker, more insidious human behaviors in individuals looking to profit from others’ tragedies.

The millions of dollars that insurance companies pour into a disaster area for rebuilding homes and property are also the target of unscrupulous individuals. After a disaster, professionals will often go door-to-door in neighborhoods which have sustained damage to offer clean up and/or construction and repair services. Most of these business people are reputable, but some are not. The dishonest ones may execute schemes to defraud innocent victims. One such scheme is to pocket the payment and never show up for the job or never complete a job that was started. Another scheme is to use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code in order to pocket more profit.

Signs appear in areas that are prone to hail storms advertising that you can get a “free, new roof” when in reality, these are nothing more than enticements to give a scam artist an opportunity to cheat a homeowner and their insurance company. There is no question that hail can cause roof damage and that is covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy. Hail damage to vehicles may be covered by your automotive insurance. But many times corrupt repair companys will deliberately cause more damage than the storm — or even create damage where none existed — in order to boost their business. They frequently try to take advantage of the elderly, pressuring them to sign contracts, file claims, or pay up front for repairs.

This is insurance fraud and it’s a crime. This causes all innocent people to pay for it in the form of higher insurance premiums.

Floods are a potential threat to any area prone to sudden or prolonged heavy rains. Vehicles caught in floods can undergo extensive damage, but not always. Cars damaged by floods often show up on used car lots. Progressive Insurance offers several tips to assess and stop further damage, and how to spot flood damage when you shop for a car.

What to Look For When Car Shopping

Buy only from a reputable dealer.
You’re more likely to get the truth about a vehicle’s past life from a reputable dealer.

Ask the dealer if the vehicle has been flood damaged.
Whatever the answer, get it in writing with the bill of sale if you buy the car.

Ask to see the title.
If you think the vehicle was damaged in a flood and the title is not stamped “Salvage” or “Flood,” ask for the car’s history to see if it came from a state that recently experienced flooding.

Find out how extensive the flood damage was.

Look for obvious signs of damage.
Check for dried mud or rust in the glove compartment, trunk, under the dashboard, seats and carpet. Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery or carpeting. If the carpeting fits loosely or the color does not match the interior, it may have been replaced because the vehicle was flood damaged.

Check the instrument panel to see that all gauges are working properly.
Check on the outside of the engine, inside garnish moldings and “kick plates” and inside the rear compartment or trunk for a distinguishing water line to see how deep the car was submerged.

Find out what kind of water damaged the vehicle.
Ask if the car was flood damaged by salt or fresh water. Salt water is more corrosive and can cause more serious damage.

Have a professional inspect the vehicle.
Take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic to be checked for any signs of flood damage.
Spending a little extra time to thoroughly check out a used car before you buy it can save you a great deal of money in the long run.

Spending a little extra time to thoroughly check out a used car before you buy it can save you a great deal of money in the long run.

Are you concerned about flood damage your own car might have suffered?

Progressive also offers the following tips to inspect your car and assess flood damage:

Check your oil indicator.
A reading of an oil level that’s too high may tell you there’s water in the engine. Do not start or run your car — it could cause severe damage.

Measure the depth of the water that submerged your car.
It is possible water did not enter any parts that are susceptible to damage.

Determine how long your car was submerged.
The shorter the time, the more salvageable any damaged parts may be.

Be sure to note the type of water that flooded your vehicle.
Fresh water causes less damage to your car than salt water.

Check local weather reports for the temperature during and after flooding.
Warmer temperatures may speed up corrosion, especially if your car was flooded with salt water.
If your property or automobile has been damaged or destroyed by a disaster, NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a repair service:
• *Get more than one estimate
• *Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed
• *Demand references and check them out
• *Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number
• *Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later
• *Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code
• *Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier
• *Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them
• *Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language
• *Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company

If you believe you have been approached by an unlicensed or unscrupulous contractor or adjuster, or have been encouraged to fabricate an insurance claim, contact your insurance company or call the NICB Hotline at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422). You may also text your information to TIP411, keyword “FRAUD” and remain anonymous if you so desire.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau:
Headquartered in Des Plaines, Illinois, the NICB is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through information analysis, investigations, training, legislative advocacy, and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,000 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote nearly $343 billion in insurance premiums in 2008, or more than 82 percent of the nation’s property/casualty insurance. To learn more visit

Creative commons photos via
Flooded cars by kconnors, flooded Fiat by xpistwv, flooded Honda by kconnors.

Jody DeVere
President and CEO