South Louisiana homeowners are beginning to rebuild after last month’s devastating flood, but it’s important for those who had flood insurance to work with claims adjusters and contractors before moving forward with repair work.

Homeowners need to communicate with whoever is handling the remediation and rebuilding and with the flood insurance claims adjuster to make sure they get the proper amount of money needed to cover the cost of fixing damage, said Jeff Albright, chief executive officer of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Louisiana, which represents 400 independent insurance agents around the state.

“Have the communication done before you make all the commitments,” Albright said. In some cases, negotiations may be needed if there’s a gap between the estimates of the adjuster and the contractor.

While flood adjusters use the same computer software to determine what a homeowner should get paid, Albright said they do work to make sure a fair value is paid out. Adjusters will conduct a thorough inspection, then issue a detailed room-by-room cost estimate of damage and a proof of loss form. If more damage is uncovered by the contractor or the work ends up costing significantly more than initially thought, homeowners can still get a fair payout, even after they signed the proof of loss form, he said.

“In some cases, they will issue a check for a supplemental claim payment after work is done,” he said.

If you can't reach an agreement with the claims adjuster, FEMA said you need to talk to the adjuster's supervisor by calling the adjusting firm, according to the agency's National Flood Insurance Program National Flood Insurance Claims Handbook. If that doesn't work, contact your insurance carrier's claims department to discuss the monetary difference or coverage issue.

Homeowners need to be sure that they’re working with reputable, licensed contractors and not “storm chasers” who are looking to charge an unreasonable amount. To verify that a contractor is licensed, visit the Louisiana Licensing Board for Contractors' website. 

"You have to be a little more careful if you're working with people from out of state," Albright said. 

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.