As victims of the catastrophic landslide in Oso start rebuilding their lives, many face the additional calamity of having no insurance for the loss of their homes. Losses from landslides are not covered by homeowner’s insurance. But there may be hope. Homeowners who purchased flood insurance policies from FEMA’S National Flood Insurance Program should seek compensation under the mudslide/mudflow insurance coverage provided by these policies.
If a mudslide/mudflow claim is turned down, it might seem overwhelming to prove that the damage to a home was caused by a “mudslide/mudflow” as covered in the flood insurance policy. However, a lawyer with a geologist or engineering geologist can demonstrate that the ground failure, was, in fact, an insurance-covered mudslide/mudflow.
The U.S. Congress added mudslide coverage to the National Flood Insurance Program for the express purpose of helping victims of mudslides like the Oso event. Not many people are aware of this, but they should be. Any person buying or building a home in an area with a mudslide, mudflow, or a flood risk should consider buying a flood insurance policy. While statutorily mandated to map flood related mudslide hazards, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has never done so.
The availability of mudslide/mudflow insurance coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program should be made more widely known.
Arthur Zeizel, Ph.D