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Hurricanes Delta and Laura Mean Some People Will Be Forced to Seek Disaster Aid Twice

By Jan Wesner Childs

October 10, 2020

At a Glance

  • Insurance in high-risk coastal areas is often run by the state.
  • Hurricane deductibles can only be charged once per year.
  • FEMA has a tip sheet for those filing twice.
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What happens when you've already filed a claim for hurricane damage with your insurance company, or applied for aid from FEMA, and another storm comes along? Can you file again or ask for more help?

It's a question that's likely facing property owners who were hit by Hurricane Laura six weeks ago and are now dealing with damage from Hurricane Delta.

The quick answer is, yes, those unlucky enough to be affected by both storms can file a second claim with their insurance company or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But there are some important rules to note when doing so.

(MORE: Hurricane Delta Saturates Storm-Scarred Louisiana)

Insurance in coastal states is tricky to begin with, and even in a single storm can be difficult to navigate. Homeowners often have separate windstorm insurance, commonly called a hurricane policy, that covers damage from named storms. The extra coverage can be required by banks and mortgage companies, depending on where a home is located.

The cost for hurricane insurance varies based on location, and many areas have state-run insurance pools for high-risk coastal areas where such coverage would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. Those insurance pools were set up after a string of multi-billion dollar hurricanes in the 1990s and 2000s, including Andrew in South Florida and Katrina in New Orleans.

The Lafleur family of Bell City, La., gathers in their garage near where a wall was destroyed by Hurricane Laura several weeks ago, as they watch the arrival of Hurricane Delta, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. (Chris Granger/The Advocate via AP)
The Lafleur family of Bell City, Louisiana, gathers in their garage near where a wall was destroyed by Hurricane Laura several weeks ago, as they watch the arrival of Hurricane Delta on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020.
(Chris Granger/The Advocate via AP)

Experts say one of the most important things to note about hurricane claims is that the deductible works differently than regular insurance.

Instead of a flat-rate deductible like $500 or $1,000, hurricane policies have what's known as a percentage deductible, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That means the deductible, which is the cost a homeowner pays out of pocket in a claim, is based on the insured value of the home. Those percentages typically vary from around 1% to 5%.

For example, a homeowner with a 5% deductible hurricane policy on a house insured for $200,000 would have to pay $10,000 before insurance kicks in.

Percentage deductibles are allowed by law in 19 states, including Louisiana and Texas, according to NerdWallet.

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Officials in Louisiana want to make sure residents with damage from both storms don't get overcharged by their insurance companies. The state insurance commissioner issued a statement Friday reminding homeowners that they can only be forced to pay their deductible once per year.

So, if they already paid their entire deductible due to Laura's damage, they won't have to pay it again for Delta.

(MORE: How to Help Victims of Hurricanes Laura and Delta)

The release added that homeowners can find out how much their deductible is by checking the first page of their insurance policy.

FEMA put out a tip sheet for those applying for aid from two storms back to back. The key step is that applicants must register separately for aid related to Delta, even if they already applied for or received aid for Laura.

FEMA also says property owners should have photos before and after Delta, in order to differentiate any damage from Laura.

The agency has already approved more than $164 million in aid to individuals and households in Louisiana.

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter is hoping that insurance companies, government agencies and the public in general don't leave his heavily damaged city behind.

"We really just need people not to forget about us," Hunter told the Associated Press. "We are going to be in the recovery mode for months and probably years from these two hurricanes. It’s just unprecedented and historic what has happened to us."

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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