With the recent events that have left many residents in Southeast Michigan dealing with catastrophic damages to their homes due to rain water and sewer backups it is important to know your rights. MAJ member Steve Liddle of Macuga, Liddle & Dubin, P.C in Detroit has put together 9 steps to help deal with basement flooding damage. Steve Liddle specializes in cases involving sewage backups, air pollution and consumer fraud.
Remember, your homeowners insurance probably doesn’t cover sewer damage, how you handle the next few days will have a big impact on whether you’ll get help paying for the damages or not.
1. Contact the governmental agency that maintains your sewers. Not only does this alert the government that there is a problem with its sewers, but it also may preserve your ability to seek compensation. Many states require a written notice of the event be filed with the responsible governmental agency in order to preserve the right to recovery.
For example, Michigan basement flooding victims must file a written Notice of Claim with the responsible governments within 45 days from the date the basement flooding was discovered. If you do not file your notice within that time period, you may be barred from seeking damages for your basement flood.
2. Contact your homeowner’s insurance company. If you make an insurance claim, keep all the records associated with the claim along with copies of your homeowner’s insurance policy.
3. Photograph and videotape the damage to your home. Use a camera to take pictures and/or video of the current flood damage to your home and your property. Make sure to photograph high value items that were damaged.
4. Make a timeline of the flooding event as it happens. Write down details of the flooding event as they occur, such as when you first discovered the water coming in, how long water was in your house, how deep the water was, what color the water was, and what did the water smell like. This information can be helpful in determining the cause of your flooding.
5. Make a list of the personal and real property which has been damaged. If known, write down the approximate market value of the damaged property. If you wait too long to document the information, you may not remember everything that has been damaged.
6. Obtain a written estimate to repair the damages to your real property. Real property loss includes damages to your paneling, drywall, tile, drop ceiling, carpeting, etc. This should be done even if you do not have the financial ability to pay for the repairs at that time.
7. Keep track of your flood clean up. Keep all receipts related to cleaning of your house, including ones from commercial cleaning services and your personal cleaning supplies. Also, keep track of the amount of time that you spend cleaning.
8. Seek legal assistance. Hiring an attorney is an important decision especially in basement flooding claims. Basement flooding claims involve complex issues of hydraulics, hydrology, engineering and governmental immunity. Hiring an attorney with significant experience in representing flood victims helps to effectively overcome those complex issues.
9. Keep copies of your flood damage documentation. These documents include receipts, pictures, videos, insurance documents, estimates, insurance policies. You should also make copies of all correspondence that you have made or received from your local government regarding the flooding. Finally, it is important to keep all of your flood damage documentation in a safe place.