If it is safe to do so, take photographs or videos of the damage — but leave climbing on the roof to professionals, Mr. Hunter said. You can also submit images of your possessions taken before the storm to document your losses.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the flood insurance program, recommends throwing out flood-damaged items that pose a health threat, such as from the growth of mold, after you take photos. Keep samples of flood-damaged items like carpet and curtains to show the adjuster.
Retain receipts of any initial repairs as well as the cost of hotels and meals. While federal flood policies don’t reimburse for temporary living costs, homeowner’s policies generally cover those expenses when they’re the result of wind damage. In federally declared disaster areas, disaster assistance may help pay for living costs that flood insurance doesn’t cover. You can search FEMA’s disaster website to see if your area qualifies.
Fortunately, standard homeowner’s insurance policies do typically cover damage from high winds — like blown-off roofs, shingles or siding, or blown-in rain. If your property was affected by both wind and flood, you may be eligible for living expenses from your policy, Mr. Hunter said.
Here are some questions and answers about flood insurance:
What if I’m not satisfied with my flood claim?
If you feel your payout is too low, you can dispute it. You can ask the adjuster’s supervisor to reconsider your claim, or you can file a request with the insurer for a new review. If you still disagree, you can file a written appeal with FEMA within 60 days of the insurer’s denial letter.
In cases of serious damage, you could consider hiring a public insurance adjuster — a professional adjuster who represents you rather than the insurer. In most states, public adjusters work on a contingency fee, meaning they aren’t paid upfront but take a cut of the settlement — often 15 percent. (Louisiana doesn’t allow contingency fees, so adjusters typically charge a flat or hourly fee.) Because the fee can be steep, the consumer federation doesn’t recommend immediately hiring public adjusters, Mr. Hunter said.
But insurers may seek to delay paying claims or deny them, hoping that policyholders will give up and accept the initial payout, said Anita Taff, the president of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. Insurance policies can be complex, she said, and the federal flood program has deadlines that must be met to protect your claim. So an adjuster can help keep you on track. Typically, she said, an initial consultation with a public adjuster is free. If you do want to consider hiring one, you can search on the association’s website for member adjusters, who agree to the group’s rules for conduct and training.