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Paul Zimmerman

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Will You Be Covered Should El Niño Arrive?

After years of drought, California is now receiving warnings that this may be an El Niño winter. The threat of El Niño brings with it the concerns of significant rain fall and resultant flood losses. Unfortunately, most homeowner insurance policies exclude losses caused by flooding.

One possible recourse would be for a homeowner to contend that a loss was caused by a source or sources other than floods. The argument would be that the loss was, at least in part, caused by a covered peril and the covered peril was an efficient proximate cause of the loss. (Garvey v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co.  48 Cal 3d. 395, 411 (1989)). However, many current forms of homeowner policies contain provisions that we call multiple cause or concurrent cause exclusions. These provisions can make it difficult to proceed with a claim under a homeowner’s policy, even if one can make an argument that although there was flooding, the efficient cause of the loss was not the flood itself.

Of course, flood insurance coverage can be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which is run through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Flood insurance can also be purchased through some private brokers. Each property owner, however, must qualify geographically in order to purchase such coverage. Also, typically, there is a 30 day waiting period before coverage can become effective when purchased through the NFIP. Therefore, in order to prepare for possible losses this winter, property owners should contact FEMA or a private broker very soon.

This article is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.