Florida homeowners must always be concerned about the possibility of hurricane damage. In doing so, they often rely on flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) to help them determine the amount and type of insurance they should carry. However, the agency hasn't updated many of its maps in quite some time, resulting in a number of Sunshine State residents being seriously underinsured.
The problem is more prevalent along the state's panhandle and was magnified in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. For example, the city of Mexico Beach was nearly devastated by Michael, yet the majority of affected structures were underinsured.
Officials cite the fact that FEMA flood maps for that area had not been updated in over a decade as one reason for the underinsurance. Reports show that FEMA designated the area as having a low or moderate risk of flooding. Accordingly, many homeowners believed they were safe and did not carry the appropriate amount of coverage to support major hurricane damage.
FEMA has acknowledged the need to update many of its maps, including those covering the state of Florida. Meanwhile, homeowners may want to review their policies and add flood coverage even if they are not in a high-risk area. Those who have suffered a loss and were uninsured or underinsured can seek assistance from FEMA with filing hurricane damage claims.
Even those who are fully insured may sometimes have difficulty getting insurance companies to pay. Homeowners who have denied claims are often eligible for legal remedies based on bad faith insurance or other factors. Before considering litigation, individuals may wish to speak with an attorney to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their case.
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, "Outdated FEMA flood maps cost uninsured homeowners millions; North Florida hit the hardest," Jeffrey Schweers, July 22, 2019