DENHAM SPRINGS, La. —It was one of the worst floods to hit Louisiana, the one that devastated hundreds of homeowners last summer in the Baton Rouge area.
But a deadline is fast approaching for people who need more money for repairing their damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency declared 20 parishes federal disaster areas.
Some said millions of dollars could potentially be left on the table. Flood victims said they haven’t fully recovered from last year’s flood and are dealing with major problems with their insurance companies.
Residents and the head of the state NAACP are urging the state to extend a Sept. 1 deadline to file a claim. It’s a deadline that many people are unaware even exists.
Some flood victims said the money they’ve received from their insurance carriers is not adequate and is well below the damage total. Last August, floodwater destroyed hundreds of homes in the Baton Rouge area.
The damage total: Well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The flooding was called once-in-a-lifetime by the governor. Louisiana residents must submit what’s called a proof of loss form required for a flood insurance claim.
The proof of loss form — a sworn statement made by the policyholder — is part of the requirement for a flood claim to be processed. That’s why it’s important to file before the Sept. 1 deadline.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon also formally asked FEMA to extend the deadline.
“The Sept. 1 proof of loss deadline is so important because if homeowners let this deadline pass without submitting a supplemental claim, then the insurance company on a technicality, could forever bar the homeowner from getting the money they’re owed,” said Raj Pandit, owner of the Pandit Law Firm in New Orleans.
Pandit said if homeowners do not get what they’re owed, he is prepared to file more than 700 federal lawsuits against insurance carriers.
“I know a lot of people around here who don’t know anything about a deadline, and that is very unfortunate … I wish I could go around door to door and tell everybody,” said Virginia Firmin, who lives in Denham Springs.
The Louisiana chapter of the NAACP issued a letter Wednesday, asking the insurance commission to extended the Sept. 1 deadline.
– Travers Mackel, WDSU News