Florida Flood Damage Lawyers

October 31, 2022 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman

If you suffered flood-related losses due to a hurricane or another event, turn to the Florida flood damage Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA to learn how we could help you recover and rebuild your life. We want to hear how the flood affected you, your family, and your property during a free, no-obligation consultation.

We represent property owners in our community who need help after a tragic event. Let a Florida flood damage lawyer help you recover your losses while you focus on your loved ones and your well-being.

Was Your Home or Commercial Property Damaged by Hurricane Ian? We Can Help

Florida Flood Damage Lawyers

Hurricane Ian flooded a massive swath of Florida, inundating millions of homes and businesses. The storm ranked as one of the largest and most destructive in recorded history.

Ian forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes ahead of the storm, but many sheltered in place. Rising water swept away homes and trapped people in attics and on rooftops. Tragically, more than 100 Floridians lost their lives. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, our hearts go out to our fellow Floridians who lost family members and loved ones. We are here to help in the wake of the storm.

After crossing Cuba, Ian struck land stateside at Cayo Costa, a tiny island in the barrier islands strung along Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast. The gigantic Category 4 hurricane reached record strength before plowing over Sanibel and Captiva Islands, taking out structures, including the bridges connecting the islands to the mainland. Next, Ian hit Englewood, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, and Port Charlotte. Storm surges inundated Lee and Charlotte Counties, driving seawater into hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

But the rising floods didn’t stop at the Gulf Coast. Ian drenched a swath across the entire state, dumping over a foot of rain. The storm flooded heavily populated areas known for amusement parks in Central Florida, soaking Lakeland and Orlando before exiting the northeast coast between Cape Canaveral and Daytona Beach.

Though at one point downgraded to a tropical storm, Ian restrengthened to a hurricane once over the Atlantic, driving storm surge and flooding into Jacksonville and other coastal areas up the Atlantic coast. In all, Hurricane Ian battered over half the state, causing property damage estimated into the tens of billions of dollars.

Areas Flooded by Hurricane Ian

Parts of Florida inundated by Hurricane Ian include:

  • Cayo Costa, Gasparilla Island, Don Pedro Island, Manasota Key, Pine Island, Captiva, Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach: All the barrier islands in the direct path of the storm experienced an estimated six feet or more of storm surge in the path of the storms, completely inundating the islands. The hurricane also shredded the bridges to Sanibel and Pine Island, leaving residents stranded and unable to return to the mainland.
  • Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda, Peace River, Myakka River: Storm surge flooding enveloped nearly half of Port Charlotte and most of Punta Gorda. The rising of the Myakka River eventually shut down parts of Interstate 75 between Englewood and North Port.
  • Cape Coral: Topping the list of Florida’s riskiest places for flooding, Cape Coral experienced widespread storm surges throughout the city, not only along Matlacha Pass and the Caloosahatchee River.
  • Fort Myers: The county seat of Lee County experienced a storm surge throughout western portions of the city and extensive flooding along the Caloosahatchee River.
  • Estero, Bonita Springs, North Naples, Naples: All experienced approximately six feet of storm surge despite being several miles inland.
  • Marco Island: A storm surge completely inundated the island from one side to the other.
  • Bradenton: The Peace River rose and flooded parts of Bradenton and Arcadia.
  • Polk County: Heavy rainfall caused flooding in Lake Wales, Frostproof, and Lakeland.
  • Orlando: Heavy rainfall caused catastrophic flooding throughout Orange County, including Orlando.
  • Jacksonville: Heavy rainfall accumulations flooded neighborhoods near the St. Johns River.

Common Causes of Flooding in Florida

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the National Weather Service (NOAA), Florida sees at least five different types of flooding:

  • Coastal flooding: Surrounded on three sides by water, Florida naturally sees more coastal flooding than any other state.
  • Storm surge: Florida also sees dangerous storm surge, water that tropical or nontropical storm systems push inland.
  • Flash flooding: Sudden floods occur from accumulated rainfall, particularly during the wet rainy season.
  • River flooding: Accumulated rainfall, storm surge, and failure of retention systems cause rivers to jump their banks.
  • Dams or levees breaking: Flooding occurs when Florida’s flood retention systems fail, particularly when overwhelmed by storm surges.

Historic Florida Floods

Whatever the source, Florida sees more than its fair share of flooding and flood damage. A peninsula surrounded by water on three sides, Florida boasts more than 1100 miles of coastline. Relatively flat topography across the state also contributes to flood-prone conditions. As a result, according to FEMA, Florida experiences flooding more frequently than any other state.

Historic Florida floods include:

  • Okeechobee Hurricane 1928: This deadly hurricane struck West Palm Beach, broke dykes, and flooded land around Lake Okeechobee. Storm surge inundated hundreds of square miles with water up to 20 feet deep, sweeping away homes and buildings in multiple towns. At least 2,500 Floridians drowned.
  • Cape Sable Hurricane 1947: This catastrophic hurricane caused extensive flooding across South Florida and the Everglades, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. Notably, authorities tried unsuccessfully to weaken the storm by seeding it with dry ice dropped from airplanes.
  • Hurricane Dora 1964: This devastating hurricane flooded parts of Northeast Florida, particularly Jacksonville, then areas of coastal Georgia. Dora caused the equivalent of $2.6 billion in property damage in 2022 dollars and five deaths.
  • Hurricane Andrew 1992: A powerful Category 5 hurricane struck the Bahamas, Florida, and Louisiana. Andrew set the record for the most destructive hurricane to ever hit Florida until Hurricane Irma.
  • Hurricane Charley 2004: The strongest recorded hurricane to strike southwest Florida until Hurricane Ian, Charley claimed 10 lives and left nearly $17 billion worth of damage in its wake.
  • Hurricane Ivan 2004: Ivan hit Alabama and the Florida panhandle, then swung across Florida and southeastern states before regenerating in the Atlantic and grinding back across Florida. Ivan caused an estimated $37 million worth of damage in 2022 dollars.
  • Hurricane Jeanne 2004: This deadly hurricane killed more than 3,000 people in Haiti before hitting Florida just two miles from where Ivan had struck just three weeks earlier, taking five lives and causing some $7.5 billion in damage.
  • Hurricane Dennis 2005: Dennis caused widespread flooding in the Florida Panhandle. It killed at least 88 people and generated nearly $3 billion in damage.
  • Hurricane Wilma 2005: Wilma caused extensive flooding in the Florida Keys and southwest Florida. Wilma accounted for at least 52 deaths and $52 billion in damage.
  • Tropical Storm Fay 2008: While not a hurricane, Fay zigzagged across Florida, making landfall a record four times and causing a devastating storm surge each time, claiming 36 lost lives.
  • Tropical Storm Debby 2012: Four years later, another tropical storm caused extensive flooding across North and Central Florida. It resulted in at least $250 million in damage and 10 deaths.
  • Hurricane Irma 2017: A massive Category 5 hurricane, Irma caused catastrophic flooding in the Florida Keys, then made another landfall that inundated Marco Island. Irma claimed at least 134 lives.
  • Hurricane Michael 2018- This historic Category 5 hurricane struck Mexico Beach, Florida, claiming at least 74 deaths and causing $25 billion in damage.

Recovering Compensation for Florida Flood Damage

Florida Flood Damage Attorneys

Unfortunately, standard homeowners’ insurance usually doesn’t cover flood damage. Instead, Floridians must recover for flood damage either through their flood insurance carriers or, in some instances, through emergency assistance programs the federal government provides.

What Does Standard Homeowners’ Insurance Cover?

Many standard homeowners’ insurance policies in Florida specifically exclude losses from flooding. Policies typically exclude water damage from certain types of flooding but not others. Most cover sudden accidental flooding from inside the home, like that caused by a burst pipe. Policies exclude gradual water damage from rain and water leaking into the house from outside over a long time unless the policy specifies the source of the water is a covered peril such as rain or snow.

What Standard Homeowners’ Insurance Doesn’t Cover

That means standard homeowners’ insurance won’t cover flooding from storms like Hurricane Ian, even though flooding caused more damage than high winds. Homeowners’ policies also typically exclude mold and other damage that can happen all too quickly in Florida if moisture remains trapped in your home. If you don’t act immediately, you are liable for any additional damage you could have prevented. The legal term for this is failure to mitigate damage, which insurance carriers will blame on you.

But after a flood, you need to focus on other things. You need a safe place to live and may not have the resources to hire contractors to fix all the damage to your home. After a major storm like Hurricane Ian, it could take weeks or months for contractors to catch up with the demand for their services.

This is especially true in Florida, where many retirees need extra help, both preparing their homes for major storms and cleaning up afterward. Contact a qualified flood damage attorney to help you recover compensation for your losses while you focus on taking the steps necessary to keep you and your family safe.

Flood Insurance

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP provides flood insurance for home and business owners in flood-prone areas through a network of insurance companies to lessen the impact of flooding on communities. The NFIP helps people in flood zones recover money to repair damage after devastating flood events.

FEMA defines a flood as water temporarily inundating at least two properties or two acres of normally dry land. Flooding in your yard alone is not enough unless larger than two acres. Instead, the flooding must also reach your neighbor’s yard or the public street. The flood also must come from accumulated rainfall, inland or tidal waters such as rivers, streams, or oceans overflowing, mudslides, or erosion.

Distinguishing Between Causes of Water Damage

If a hurricane causes water damage to your home or business, you must determine whether wind-driven rain or rising flood water is to blame. If wind breaks a window or damages your roof and drives rain into your home, that water is likely not covered under your flood insurance policy. However, if a storm causes flash flooding that floods your home, your flood insurance policy likely covers it. A good flood damage attorney can help you determine the source of your water damage and whether your policy provides coverage.

What Does Flood Insurance Cover?

Flood insurance covers flooding that comes from sources outside the home. Property owners may buy flood coverage as a standalone policy or add it to a larger policy. Remember that you may need flood coverage even if you live on an upper floor of a condo, because if the ground floor floods, it could leave the whole building uninhabitable.

Flood insurance covers all damage to the building and its contents from water intrusion from outside the home.

According to FEMA, NFIP flood insurance covers the following:

  • Buildings and structures, including detached garages
  • Electrical, plumbing, and heating systems
  • Appliances, including refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers
  • Permanently installed carpeting, cabinets, paneling, and bookcases
  • Window blinds
  • Foundation walls and anchorage systems, such as boat docks
  • Fuel tanks, well water tanks and pumps, and solar equipment

Depending on your policy, flood coverage may also include remediation costs for removing and treating mold.

You should make lists and take photographs of your property and belongings before any flooding occurs, then document any damage afterward. Your insurance carrier will have deadlines for submitting claims and may deny claims submitted with insufficient documentation. A good flood damage attorney can help you file and document your claim, then negotiate with your carrier to ensure you receive prompt and fair payment.

FEMA Flood Zones

Whether you must buy flood insurance depends on how FEMA categorizes the place you live. In communities participating in the NFIP, owners and renters living in certain zones may choose to buy flood insurance, while others must purchase it.

If you live in an area that FEMA defines as Zone B, C, or X, your property has a moderate to low risk of flooding, and flood insurance is not mandatory.

FEMA defines the zones as follows:

  • Zones B: These areas have a moderate risk of flooding, meaning FEMA data shows them flooding once every 500 years but not every 100 years. These areas include floodplains protected by levees or subject to shallow flooding less than one foot deep or a square mile in coverage.
  • Zones C and X: These areas have a minimal risk of flooding that FEMA data shows have not flooded in 500 years. Zone C may have some minimal ponding or local drainage problems, while Zone X never floods.

However, if you live in a flood zone that starts with an A, V, or D, your property has a high risk of flooding, and you must buy flood insurance.

Here is how FEMA defines those zones:

  • Zones A, AE, AO, AH, AR, A1-30, A99: These areas have at least a one percent chance of flooding in a given year, including areas that flood because of nearby rivers, streams, and floodplains.
  • Zones V, VE, V30: These coastal areas border the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico and have at least a one percent chance of flooding in a given year.
  • Zone D: These areas have undetermined flood hazards where FEMA has not analyzed flood risks.

If you live in one of these zones, you must buy flood insurance if you have a federally insured mortgage. Otherwise, lenders will not loan money to buy or refinance a home in a high-risk flood zone.

Don’t Confuse Flood Zones and Evacuation Zones!

Be careful not to confuse your FEMA flood zones with your Florida evacuation zone designations before a storm. Florida uses a system called “Know Your Zone” to alert citizens who need to evacuate before a storm hits. Zones include Tropical Storm Zone, Zones A through L, and Zone X.

News stations announce which evacuation zones must evacuate as the storm nears. The Florida Disaster Organization provides a helpful map tool to find your flood zone by simply entering your address. Florida properties fall within either the Tropical Storm Zone, Zone A through L, or Zone X. Simply go to the website and enter your address to determine your zone.

When a flooding event looms, all residents in zones identified as Tropical Storm Zones must evacuate. Zones A through L sometimes must evacuate depending on the forecast storm surge and rainfall, with Zone A the lowest-lying flood-prone areas most likely to evacuate and Zone L the least likely.

But watch out—your evacuation zone may differ from your FEMA flood zone. For example, if you live in a community of mobile homes, your evacuation zone is always A, the same as coastal homes right on the beach. It doesn’t matter if your home is in an area that never floods. You must still evacuate when your county announces Zone A must evacuate, even though you don’t live on the beach!

The only evacuation zone that coincides with flood zones is Zone X, which FEMA reserves for traditionally built structures in areas that do not flood, so residents do not need to evacuate. The key is to be careful, don’t confuse your evacuation zone with your flood zone, and—most importantly—stay safe!

How to Recover From Your Insurance Carrier

If your property flooded and you have flood insurance, our Florida flood damage attorneys can help you file a claim with your insurance company. Don’t file a claim without the assistance of good flood damage attorneys. The insurance companies have teams of lawyers whose job is to deny your claim or minimize the amount of money the insurer pays you. You should have teams of attorneys on your side as well.

Don’t Waive Your Rights

First, our team can help you file a claim without waiving any important rights. Once you file a claim, insurance adjusters will contact you and ask you to make statements about how much damage you incurred. Adjusters earn their livings by collecting information that determines how much your insurance provider—their employer—pays you. They will record you and may include anything you say in their reports. But you may not realize how much your flood damage will cost you.

You may not know the full extent of the damage until you finish repairs. Don’t make statements insurers will use against you to deny your claim or make you a lowball offer. Get help from Florida flood damage attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Attorneys PA before you file a claim. We can handle all the communications with your insurance provider, so you don’t need to deal with bullying or pressure tactics. Instead, you can focus on putting your life back together.

Get an Accurate, Non-Biased Assessment of Your Losses

Second, our team can help you assess and document the losses you suffered. We can bring in experts who specialize in Florida flood damage claims and can improve your chances of getting the full recovery you need. We can also review your insurance policy to understand what it does and doesn’t cover.

Your insurance provider may try to read your policy narrowly and tell you it doesn’t cover all the losses you suffer. Don’t accept their interpretation. Insurers write complex and confusing policies with exclusions within exceptions. Don’t let them tell you your policy doesn’t cover something you paid premiums to cover. We know how to decipher policy language so your insurer can’t use it against you. We can spot loopholes and fight unfair or unclear policy terms.

Get a Fair Settlement for Your Claims from Your Carrier

Third, our team can negotiate with your insurer to provide a substantial settlement. The flood damage attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have battled insurance companies for nearly two decades. We know their tactics and understand how to use evidence to build an airtight claim to get you a full and fair settlement.

Get Compensated If Your Insurance Company Doesn’t Pay You a Fair Settlement

Fourth, if your insurance company still refuses to pay fair value for your claim, we can take your insurance company to trial. If your insurer refused to negotiate with you fairly and did not offer you a reasonable settlement within a certain amount of time, you may have additional claims and rights to recover based on that refusal to settle. According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, insurance companies must make a reasonable settlement offer within 90 days. If yours does not, you can hold them accountable for their bad-faith behavior.

Don’t Accept Denials or Lowball Settlement Offers

If your insurer denied your claim, gave you a lowball offer, or refused to make you a decent settlement offer within a reasonable time, we can help you know your rights. We can determine if your insurer acted in bad faith and broke the laws that require insurance companies to treat their customers fairly.

Those laws set deadlines for the insurance company to pay your claim or explain a valid reason for denial. In some cases, the value of your bad-faith claims may reach three times that of your other claims. When people suffer losses, insurance companies holding out and refusing to pay claims only worsen the problem. You need compensation to put your home and life back together, and you need it now. We will help you pursue claims in court and demand additional compensation when necessary.

Recovering Disaster Assistance from FEMA

If you don’t have flood insurance or your insurance company refuses to cover some or all your flood losses, you can apply directly to FEMA for monetary assistance.

In media statements made immediately following the storm, President Biden explained that residents of the counties most affected by Hurricane Ian may qualify for federal disaster assistance payments. Assistance is available for residents of Charlotte, Collier, DeSotoHardeeHillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, PinellasPolkSarasota, and Seminole counties. People may recover $37,900 for home repairs and an additional $37,900 each for damage to vehicles or personal property.

According to FEMA’s website, people who suffered losses from Hurricane Ian can apply for financial assistance from the federal government in three ways:

Those applying for assistance must provide contact information, a social security number, a list of damage and losses, banking information, and insurance information if insured.

Although these payments and any insurance recoveries may help alleviate some of Ian’s devastating losses, the storm’s flooding unquestionably caused far more damage than the payments will cover. If you suffered flood damage from Ian, contact the Florida flood damage attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA to see how we can help you recover.

Watch Out for Scams

Unfortunately, Floridians need to watch out for scammers after a massive tragedy like Hurricane Ian. The availability of federal disaster assistance for anyone who suffered damage means scammers will target the storm’s victims. These scammers call you or come to your home posing as government representatives wanting to help you recover assistance payments.

They pretend to assess the damage and collect personal information about you, supposedly so they can process your emergency assistance application. Then the scammers apply for assistance on your behalf but keep any payout themselves and may steal your identity to raid bank accounts and use your credit. Scammers often target Floridians who need help the most.

Don’t let scammers take advantage of you. If someone calls you or comes to your home claiming they can help you get an assistance payment, ask to see documentation and independently verify they are who they say they are. Report any imposters and call a flood damage lawyer who can help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do I Do If My Property Flooded?

Make sure you and your family stay safe. When you can, contact a Florida flood damage attorney who can help with the next steps and put you in touch with the resources you need while you focus on putting your life back together.

How Do I Recover for My Flooding?

Floridians with homeowners’ insurance may recover from their insurers for some limited types of water damage. Those with flood coverage may recover from their flood insurance carriers. In addition, Floridians in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, and Seminole counties may apply for federal disaster assistance.

How Long Will It Take to Recover Compensation for Flooding?

Because of the severity and breadth of Hurricane Ian’s damage, it could take weeks, months, or longer for insurance companies to process claims. FEMA’s website allows people to file applications for assistance but does not state how long it will take to process assistance claims. The Florida Division of Consumer Services also provides a way for Floridians to file insurance claims online and offers a helpline but asks for patience with hold times and provides no forecast for expected claim processing times.

Why Contact Our Florida Flood Damage Lawyers Today

Personal Injury Lawyer
Matt Dolman, Florida Flood Damage Attorney

If your property suffered flood damage, contact us at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA at (727) 451-6900 to find out how we can help you recover compensation for your losses. Dolman Law Group helps Floridians fight insurance companies and recover for flood damage in the wake of tragedy.

We have helped our clients recover over $225 million to rebuild their lives. Our team boasts over 130 years of combined experience handling claims against insurance companies. We have built our business on helping people take on their insurers and winning for our clients. Our hearts go out to our friends and neighbors who lost loved ones and homes in Hurricane Ian. We are here to help.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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