Insurance Claims and Natural Disasters

Information on your rights in the event of a natural disaster destroying your property in France; how to go about making an insurance claim and what is covered in the event of damage not recognised as a "natural disaster"...

In France the claims that can be made on insurance for damages caused by nature differ depending on what has happened and whether or not an event has been declared a natural disaster. Important to know is that the period in which a claim can be made is five days for "normal" damages and ten days in the case of a natural disaster.

Types of Damage

Damage to buildings caused by wind

All types of multi-risk house insurance include a guarantee for damages caused by the wind and for water which has entered a house through the roof. These does not require a declaration of natural disaster.

Damage to cars

To get reimbursed for a car that has been damaged by a fallen tree, the car insurance must include a minimum guarantee of “incendie ou dommages”. Declaration of natural disaster is not necessary.

Disasters caused by flooding

Compensation for damages caused by flooding normally require that a natural disaster is declared and published in the Official Journal (Journal Officiel).

Making a Claim

Insurance companies normally require that damages are declared within five days. In the case of natural disasters, additional days might be allowed. For water damage caused by flooding, a person has 10 days to make a claim after the natural disaster has been published in the Official Journal. It is advisable to:
  • Do everything possible to limit worsening of the damages
  • Approach the Town Hall (mairie) to engage a procedure of "recognition of natural disaster"
  • If a natural disaster is declared, a person has 10 days to make a claim to the insurance company with an estimation of loss. The insurance company has two months to make a first payment and three months to make a final payment
  • If no natural disaster is declared, damages must be declared to the insurance company within five days
  • Initiate the declaration of damage by phone, in writing, or by visiting the agency
  • An expert may be sent to evaluate damages. It is advisable to keep damaged objects, or at least photos and videos of them, for the evaluation. Before and after photos are always useful, as are invoices and contracts

Following a Natural Disaster

The Ministère de l’Ecologie, de l’Energie, du Développement durable et de la Mer provides a guide on what to do to return a property to safe living standards after damage by flooding. The guide (PDF in French) describes in detail how to deal with the situation, particularly with attention to:
  • Safety (turning on electricity and water, checking for gas leaks) and health (slipping on wet floors, coping with stress) when returning to the property for the first time
  • How to combat mould and microbes
  • Where to get help (the town hall, doctor, insurance company, neighbours)
  • Practical advice on all work related to getting the property into order
  • Guidelines to the improvements to make to avoid damage by another flooding

Further Information

  • GEMA on what to do in case of a natural disaster
  • Attitude Prevention has information on insurance and advice on risk prevention (in French)