Consumer Issues After a Disaster

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab


About Consumer Issues After a Disaster

This category concerns problems a consumer might have after a natural disaster including: 

  • Insurance Claims 
  • Fraud & Scams
  • Debt 
  • Bankruptcy, including whether to file for bankruptcy and how to file

The legal timeline below goes over the various consumer legal needs that a disaster survivor might encounter. Expand each section of the timeline to learn about the various other issues a disaster survivor might face. Each issue below is included as information in the relevant tabs on this page. 

Consumer Legal Issues After a Disaster

These are some of the short-term issues - 1 to 6 weeks after a disaster event related to consumer issues: 

  • Checking to see if a policy covers a disaster issue

  • Understanding disaster issues not covered by homeowner’s insurance  

  • Understanding insurance policyholder post-loss duties

  • Taking reasonable steps to protect property from further damage 

  • Scams & Fraud 

These are some of the medium-term issues - 1 to 6 months after a disaster event that disaster survivors might face related to consumer issues: 

  • Assessing the value of the loss and preparing an inventory of damaged or destroyed items

  • Filing An Insurance Claim

  • Scams & Fraud 

  • Notifying lenders if finances are impacted by a disaster event

These are some of the long-term issues that a disaster survivor might face in the long term - 6 months to years after a disaster event related to consumer issues: 

  • Maintaining homeowner’s (and renter’s) insurance 

  • Homeowner’s Insurance Claim Denials 

  • Understanding flood insurance and flood risk

  • Scams & Fraud 

  • Dealing with debt collection

  • Understanding bankruptcy, including whether to file for bankruptcy and how to file

Insurance Claims

Insurance Claims After a Disaster

Insurance coverage helps compensate those affected by a disaster for their losses. Most homeowners and renters insurance policies cover disasters. Flood insurance is separate from homeowners and renters insurance. Flood insurance helps protect renters or homeowners after a flooding event. Insurance coverage varies by policy and type of insurance. It is important to check your policy if you are unsure of whether insurance covers the damage.

To learn more check out the available resources: 


Disaster survivors may need to file a claim for their property after a disaster to their insurance. To file a claim, contact your insurance agent or company immediately after a disaster event. Find out: 

  • Whether the terms of the policy cover the damage 

  • The deadline to file a claim 

  • Whether the claim exceeds the deductible (the amount of loss the client agrees to pay before insurance)

  • The processing time for the claim 

  • Whether estimates for repairs are needed. 

The insurance company may send a client a proof of loss form to complete. An adjuster may also visit the property to assess the value of the losses and property damage. 

To help assess the value of the loss, prepare an inventory of damaged or destroyed items. Provide a copy to the adjuster along with any receipts. It is useful to consider photographing or videotaping the damage. The more information documented about the damaged property (a description of the item, approximate date of purchase, and what it would cost to replace or repair) the faster the claim can get settled.

To learn more check out the available resources: 

Disaster survivors may file for homeowners insurance coverage after a disaster but may need to deal with a denial of loss under their policy. In many cases, insurance companies may settle the claim for less than what is due or deny rightful claims altogether. Generally, state law has strict deadlines requiring insurance companies to pay legitimate claims. Disaster survivors may need to contact their insurer to find out what their rights are to appeal the decision.

To learn more check out the available resources: 

Fraud & Scams

Fraud and Scams

Disaster Fraud

Disaster fraud can occur in various ways after a disaster. Disaster fraud affects all types of people after a disaster. You can help prevent yourself from becoming a victim of fraud when you inform yourself. More information about fraud and fraudulent practices can help prevent issues.

To learn more check out the resources: 



Disaster survivors who might be experiencing financial hardship can contact their banks or loan providers. It is important to stay in contact with the lender if you cannot make an upcoming payment at all or only partially. Some lenders may have the flexibility to help disaster survivors with things like fees for late payments or waiving penalties if they let the lender know in advance they have been impacted by a disaster event. 

The FDIC encourages financial institutions to work constructively with borrowers who are experiencing difficulties beyond their control because of damage caused by these disasters. Extending repayment terms, restructuring existing loans, or easing terms for new loans, if done in a manner consistent with sound banking practices, can contribute to the health of the community and serve the long-term interests of the lending institution. Before skipping payments or changing the terms of the loan, contact your bank.

To learn more about debt issues check out the resources: 

Disasters can cause financial crises when a person falls behind on their bills. Missed payments or collection actions can damage their credit ratings. Those who are affected as part of a disaster should not avoid dealing with financial situations. It is important to understand property debt collection practices and other actions that a person can take to protect themselves. 

To learn more about debt issues check out the resources: 


Understanding Bankruptcy, including whether to file for bankruptcy and how to file


Disaster survivors may be concerned about their abilities to make payments on mortgages or other debts. If a disaster survivor has income and wants to keep the house, they may be able to file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If a disaster survivor is current on their house payment, they may also keep the house by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and "re-affirming" the debt on the house. You should talk to an attorney about all available disaster assistance before proceeding with a decision to file bankruptcy. 

Bankruptcy can help you when you have a property to protect and a lot of debt that is past due. Before filing for bankruptcy, look at other ways to solve your problems. Call your creditors to see if they are giving extra time to people affected by a natural disaster. Look into consumer credit counseling. You may be able to work out a repayment agreement. You may need to file bankruptcy if you have to stop a lawsuit, garnishment, foreclosure evictions, or revocation of a driver's license. 

Upsolve is a nonprofit online web application that enables low-income Americans to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on their own. This covers a person's options that they have when they decide to file for bankruptcy. It deals with the filing, procedure, and possible outcomes of it. It includes information about how to file for bankruptcy. It also includes the different types of bankruptcy, the exceptions, and the exemptions.

To learn more about bankruptcy issues check out the resources: 

Last Review and Update: Sep 13, 2022
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