Frozen busted water pipes? Don’t file a ‘flood’ claim

February’s relentless cold temperatures are wreaking havoc on the water pipes and fire-protection sprinklers of commercial enterprises and private homes alike. When the pipes freeze and expand, they tend to burst at the seams, causing costly — and miserable — water damage to the structure and contents of homes and businesses.
For the owners of these properties, a natural response is to pick up the phone and file an insurance claim for damages. But public insurance adjuster Wes Baldwin of Charlotte warns that there is a right way and a wrong way to report a claim: “When people are standing in several inches of water, due to frozen broken water pipes, it’s somewhat natural to tell their agent that their house or business is flooded.”
But don’t do it, Baldwin warns.
The reason? Baldwin, president of The Baldwin Company, Inc., Property Loss Consultants, for 39 years, explains: “The word ‘flood’ has a very specific meaning in the insurance industry, and using it in the wrong situation can lead to a denial of a property claim for what may be perfectly legitimate — and covered — water damage. The minute you mention ‘flood,’” says Baldwin, “the insurance company’s blinders go on: the standard property insurance policy does not cover damage brought about by floods.”
What business and homeowners need to report instead, says Baldwin, is water damage. But when caught in the throes of a disaster which threatens one’s home or livelihood, very few policyholders are able to think clearly enough to remember that distinction.
That is why Baldwin suggests that property owners now faced with frozen water pipes consider using the services of a Public Insurance Adjuster to help them navigate the intricacies of both their coverage and the claims process itself. A public adjuster is a specific kind of licensed adjuster who, hired by and working exclusively for the policyholder, is experienced and knowledgeable enough to make sure their clients get everything that their policy has promised them.
One of The Baldwin Company’s clients, Rick Conley, manager for Regis Property Management in Dallas, TX, puts it this way: “When our water pipes froze and burst at our Dunes Plaza Shopping Center in Michigan City, IN, it brought a particular kind of misery. It’s hard to describe how cold it is traipsing around in 4 inches of water in one dark, unheated building after another, unless you’ve experienced it yourself.”
“Baldwin came in and handled not only that grueling physical part of documenting our claim but also the more cerebral parts of researching our policies and communicating with the insurance companies’ people throughout the process,” says Rick. “He even had ways of measuring the water damage within the walls of our structures that convinced our insurance company they needed to pay to get all that fixed.”