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Following a disaster, learn how to spot and safely
deal with flood-damaged vehicles.

Floods are the most common natural disasters in the United States. Recent catastrophic flooding in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi has left thousands of motorists with vehicles that were submerged in floodwater to varying degrees. In March, parts of Arkansas experienced severe flooding after three straight days of rain.

And technically, hurricane season isn’t over until Nov. 30, which requires residents along the Gulf Coast to remain vigilant. A few tips can help motorists navigate murky waters of dealing with flooded vehicles.

Don’t start your engine. Trying to start a vehicle that is currently, or was previously, exposed to high water levels could result in immediate and severe engine damage if water is drawn into the combustion chambers.

Not all damage will be visible. The higher the water level, the greater the potential for problems. Long- and short-term electrical issues, health concerns caused from toxic substances within floodwater, and cosmetic damages are just a few examples of damage. AAA recommends the car not be started until a thorough professional inspection and cleaning has been performed.

What if the vehicle’s interior is dry? If the water levels never reached the vehicle’s door openings and the interior is dry, most of the time this vehicle can be safely driven. However, it is a good idea to have the undercarriage washed to remove storm debris, dirt, salt, and other floodwater contaminants. It’s also a good idea to have a qualified repair facility inspect the brakes and other mechanical or electrical components that might have been affected.

Tips for filing an insurance claim. If you think you have a claim, the first step is to document the damage. Take pictures of the vehicle as soon as it’s safe to do so. Then give your insurance company a call. You’ll be assigned to a claims service representative, who will confirm the facts, review your coverage, and answer your questions.

If you purchased comprehensive coverage, your representative will coordinate the settlement. Should your vehicle be repairable, you can take it to a pre-qualified repair facility or accept a check for repairs (minus your deductible).

If your car needs to be replaced, you’ll be reimbursed the actual cash value (ACV) after you pay the comprehensive deductible.

Buyer beware. Finally, be aware that flood-damaged vehicles can be shipped anywhere for resale, and may show up as early as a week following a devastating storm. Before purchasing a pre-owned car, always have a vehicle inspected by a quality repair facility and obtain a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. You also can check the vehicle for signs of corrosion, including looking at the undercarriage. It is uncommon to find corrosion in newer vehicles and those owned or sold in Southern states. •
Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Southern Traveler.

Your insurance agent can provide more information about auto insurance coverage. Call (888) 222-2582, stop in at a AAA branch office, or click on

November/December 2016 Issue

ask an agent

Q: My car was totaled after the recent flooding, but the settlement check was less than I paid for the vehicle. Why is that?


A: If your vehicle is a total loss because it cannot be safely repaired or the repairs exceed the value of your vehicle, you will receive the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the car. ACV is determined by the sales price of comparable vehicles in your area, taking into consideration the car’s condition, mileage, and optional upgrades. After the value is determined and the deductible is applied, proper forms or the actual title is received, a check can be issued to you or to you and your lender if they hold a lien on the vehicle.

– Stennett Thompkins
AAA Sales Agent
Bentonville, Ark.

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