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Motorists warned over flood risks

A flood warning signThe latest bout of severe weather around Britain means more damage and more insurance claims. We explain how to avoid being turned down.

As storms continue to batter the UK, people are being urged to take precautions to minimise damage to their properties and vehicles.

The Environment Agency has again this weekend been forced to issue flood warnings for many western areas.

More than 1,100 vehicles rescued

Already towns including Salcombe in Devon and Looe in Cornwall have been hit by rising water, while in Cardigan, Wales, a number of residents have been trapped in their homes by the storm surge.

This latest bout of bad weather follows weeks of storms and high winds that have battered Britain.

The AA said this week that its staff had rescued more than 1,100 cars from flood water since 23 December.

In many cases, according to the organisation, problems were caused because owners of 4x4 vehicles expected to be able to drive through standing water.

Don’t ignore warning signs

Spokesman Simon Douglas added that many appeared to have ignored "road closed" signs.

He said: "I’m concerned that so many drivers are reported to have ignored warnings not to drive down flooded roads, even attempting to drive through deep water covering a closed road.

"Many of those our Special Operations patrols have rescued have been 4x4 drivers under the misapprehension that their vehicle can cope with anything.

"They discover the hard way that ‘off road’ capability doesn’t include flood water."

High write-off rates

Douglas added that water can destroy a car’s engine if it enters through the air intake.

AA figures show that 70 per cent of vehicles stranded by flood water are written off.

Douglas said that drivers would be likely to have any car insurance claims rejected if they were found to have ignored "road closed" warnings.

The AA said that it was not just 4x4 drivers who had bitten off more than they could chew.

A Mini misadventure

In one case, the owner of a three-day-old Mini had his car written off after driving into water three feet deep.

Douglas said: "When our patrol pulled him to safety, he simply said he didn’t know a different road and didn’t think it would be a problem."

The Environment Agency has issued advice to homeowners in high-risk areas on how to prepare for flooding in the future.

  • Buy sandbags from local builders’ merchants to help keep water out.
  • Fit flood-proof doors and windows, and raise door thresholds to keep out shallow water.
  • Check pointing on exterior walls and apply water-proofing sealant.
  • Fit non-return valves to drains as well as water inlet and outlet pipes.
  • Keep high-value items on high shelves, and fix AV equipment to the wall at a high level.
  • Raise electrical sockets to at least 1.5 metres above the floor.
  • Keep appliances such as fridges and washing machines on plinths if possible.

Making a claim

If your home is damaged and you need to claim on your home insurance, bear in mind that most insurers will allow you to make emergency repairs up to a certain value – around £1,000 is typical – so that problems do not become worse.

Douglas at the AA added: "If you do need to get a local repairer out, make sure you keep a receipt and details of the work so a claim can be made later."

The Environment Agency said that householders should make a note of all phone calls to insurers, including the date, who you spoke to, and what was agreed.

You should also keep receipts for any expenses or work carried out, and mark the height of flood water in all affected rooms.

Finally, you should take photos or videos and make a list of any damage.

For more information on how to make a claim for flooding on your home insurance policy read our handy guide.

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris