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Should evacuees be reimbursed?

Your homeowners insurance may not reimburse you for expenses if you're ordered to evacuate. Should the government pay you back?

By Karen Datko Aug 30, 2011 3:04PM

This question touched a nerve after Hurricane Gustav and it's timely once again: Should people be reimbursed for the cost if they're forced to evacuate?


Blogger "JLP" posed it to readers of AllFinancialMatters in September 2008 after seeing a TV news report in which most people responded in the affirmative when asked if the government should reimburse people who had to flee. Then he offered his own view:

We already have a system in place to help those who can't afford to evacuate so I hardly see the need to reimburse everyone else. If you don’t like evacuating, then I'd suggest moving away from the coast.

Another reader said the idea was akin to expecting the government to reimburse you for the cost of keeping your sidewalks clear after a snowstorm. But reader Terry said it wasn't cut and dried:

If an evacuation is voluntary, government shouldn't pay for it. But if evacuation is mandatory, there is a case for reimbursement.

But hold on, you might think, isn't that what my homeowners policy is for? Won't it cover my expenses if I'm subject to a mandatory evacuation order?


As in most matters involving home insurance and disasters, it's complex and involves several factors:

  • What type of disaster strikes.
  • Where you live.
  • Whether the evacuation was mandatory or not.
  • What's included in your policy, including "additional living expenses" or "loss of use" coverage. (Note: If your home is actually rendered uninhabitable by the disaster, other rules apply.)

For instance, we found several states where reimbursement by the insurance company for evacuation expenses is common if you're required to flee in case of wildfire -- including California, Kathy Kristof says. Post continues after video.

Arizona appears to be another one. "Under a typical homeowners policy, if the civil authorities ask you to evacuate, you are covered," Wes Thew with Flagstaff Insurance told after wildfires drove northern Arizona folks from their homes. "It is a very common type of coverage. A vast majority of the policies, if not all, has this type of coverage."


But that doesn't mean your disaster evacuation will be covered too. The Florida Insurance Guaranty Association says:

Consult your policy for this coverage. Generally, voluntary evacuation expenses will not be covered by your insurance policy, and only under certain conditions will mandatory evacuation expenses be covered.

And this, from the Texas Department of Insurance website:

It depends on your particular policy. Some policies may provide coverage if a civil authority prohibits you from use of the residence premises as a result of direct damage to a neighboring premises caused by a covered peril. (Emphasis added.) This coverage is generally limited for a period of up to two weeks. You should contact your agent or company regarding your specific policy.

Also, The Galveston County Daily News said the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association decided last year not to reimburse folks who were forced to flee the coast because of an approaching hurricane. It added that "very few private insurers pay for evacuation expenses because the industry would pay tens of millions of dollars to policyholders whether hurricanes caused damage or not."


What about flooding? Regular homeowners insurance doesn't apply here and neither does flood insurance, according to the federal flood insurance website.


Will the Federal Emergency Management Agency help out with evacuation costs? It may reimburse evacuees in limited circumstances. But this report in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans observes that evacuees without means can use emergency public transport and shelter. (FEMA does reimburse state and local governments for some of those costs.)


There is a circumstance where the federal government will cover your evacuation costs -- if you live within range of a nuclear accident. Federal law limits the liability of the nuclear power industry to the first $12.6 billion in damages in such an event, CNNMoney reports. After that, the taxpayers pick up the tab.

The act that created the cap, known as Price-Anderson, said that federal and state governments will step in and cover "bodily injury, sickness, disease or resulting death, property damage and loss as well as reasonable living expenses for individuals evacuated" in the event of a disaster, according to the NRC's Web site. Because the losses are covered by the government, homeowner insurance policies won't cover any of the damages.

If authorities forced you to evacuate as Hurricane Irene bore down on the East Coast, what should you do? Keep all receipts and contact your insurance company. Everyone else, check your homeowners policy now. And add this to your list of reasons why you should have an emergency fund.


One other point to keep in mind: If your insurance covers your expenses during a mandated evacuation, it's not a blank check to live high on the hog. If you're covered, your policy has limits on how much you'll be reimbursed.


Now back to the original question: Should the government reimburse all who are required to flee a natural disaster?


More on MSN Money:

Aug 30, 2011 3:42PM

I love the way these questions are phrased:  Should the government reimburse you?  What it should say is, Should taxpayers reimburse you?  There's this odd assumption that govt money is somehow different, that it magically appears and is dispensed to various people under the law.  It's our money and always has been.


So, to ask this question properly, Should the rest of us pay when people are forced to evacuate?

Aug 30, 2011 3:59PM

Government reimbursement?  Really?  When will this nonsense end?  You are responsible for your own bills and life.  I am still waiting for my mortgage bailout since I paid my mortgage on time and was smart enough to not over extend myself?    The sooner this country gets back to personal responsibility, the better off we all will be.  Enough of this that people think the rest of us or the government owes them anything.  This is why the debt is so high.  Because people expect the government to bail them out.


Did you see the man yelling out.  "We don't have no phone and no baby food. 
We're going to die."  


It's like you were told to leave and you stayed without preparing.   And who cares if you have a phone or not.   Phones probably won't work anyway.   If you have a baby and didn't leave, you are a self centered moron waiting for a handout.    Maybe it is time to take a hand up and get off your ****.

Aug 30, 2011 4:02PM
I am required to shovel my sidewalk after a snow storm, I am required to carry insurance on my car, I am required to pay taxes, a lot of other items. I am not reimbursed for these expenses. So no, why should the tax payers pay for it?
Aug 30, 2011 4:21PM



They chose to live in hurricane country same as those who live along a flood river or in tornado country. I'm sure the can buy insurance. I live in tornado land & I have accepted that fact as I knew it long before I moved into to it. I 've always lived in tornado land. Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado & Wyoming. We taxpayers shouldn'n be made to pay for others stupidity!!!!!



Aug 30, 2011 4:50PM
You do get reimbursed.  You get to stay alive.  Consider that a win.

Aug 30, 2011 5:01PM
If you think that is mean spirited try this on- Hurricanes are a fact of life on the gulf it is not if but when. If you live here you should have an evacuation plan, complete with funding ready at all times between 1 June and 1 December.

If you don't then you should be ready to "ride the storm out" Hurricanes can be dangerous and you will at best be uncomfortable and at worst dead. It is not the governments responsibility to force you to evacuate or to come rescue you if do not or can not evacuate.

Your personal safety is your responsibility be a free adult not a captive child of the government.

Aug 30, 2011 4:11PM
If we start reimbursing people for evacuating, then we need to start sending bills to the people who stay and need to be rescued.  Might end up a wash.
Aug 30, 2011 3:52PM
Absolute insanity to even suggest the government reimburse for evacuees. What moron came up with that notion? If you're too cheap to pay for your evacuation then ride out the storm and take your chances. There were also plenty of facilities to stay in for free during the evacuation. It's time to get over the sense of entitlement that Americans seem to feel, and take responsibility for yourselves! Of course the ones crying for reimbursement did not have a supply of food water on hand as they thought the "government" would show up in a boat or car and give them what they needed to survive. Ridiculous!!!!
Aug 30, 2011 4:06PM

Typical stupidity of the liberal mindset that thinks no one should be held accountable or responsible for their choices. I would love to live next the beaches and ocean, but if that is my choice why expect others to pay for my choices?


This insanity has got to stop. But the morons want marijuana and drugs legalized, and everything else made acceptable but when their health detiorates or the consequences of their stupid choices is due they want others to pay for their healthcare needs. I believe everyone has a right to healthcare, but lets face it too many people are just wanting a "safety net" so they can do stupid things and live without any accountability or responsibility placed upon them for their actions and life styles.

Aug 30, 2011 3:49PM

Reimbursement?  Not just NO but H--- NO!  Anyone choosing to live next to a coastline should expect to get a storm.  The government should not buy your property, rebuild your house, or any of that other garbage.  I am from the Gulf Coast, do I still live there?  No.  Why?  Because I do not like hurricanes.  My life, my decision.  The government has nothing to do with it, they did not tell me that I had to live on the coast.

Aug 30, 2011 3:53PM
Of course not. Should you be reimbursed for fuel costs when forced to take a detour? Should you be reimbursed when your local DMV branch closes and you're forced to use a far less convenient branch? OF COURSE NOT. People really need to stop looking for handouts and be prepared to take responsiblity. No, I'm not saying the evacuation is the poeple's fault, but just the same it's not the government's fault either. They're evacuating you so they don't have to find your body later on. Be greatful they're looking out for your safety.
Aug 30, 2011 5:23PM
I live on the Texas Gulf Coast and I certainly don't expect anyone to reimburse me if I have to evacuate due to a hurricane.  Why should I?  The thought of asking the government to pay for my evacuation is absurd.  I can understand some people making such a request.  They are the ones who continually walk around with their hands out crying "you owe me," or "gimme,  gimme, gimme."  Heaven forbid they do something for themselves.  They are the ones who abuse the welfare system.  They abuse our healthcare system.  They are basically leeches who deserve absolutely nothing from anyone.
Aug 30, 2011 6:08PM
No.  If you chose to live in an area where you have a high chance of being flooded, blown away, burned up, or tumble down the side of a mountain; then that is your choice and your risk.   The tax payers should NOT pay for your risk taking.
Aug 30, 2011 5:24PM

I lost money in the stock market when it fell from the high 12,000's. Should the government reimburse me for my losses? Liberals will say yes.....LOL!!!!!


LIFE IS NOT FAIR and sure some people need help OCCASSIONALLY! When they start making being "helped", "assisted", "subsidized" and "cradle to grave taken care of" a LIFESTYLE then that is ENOUGH. Get out on your own and take care of YOURSELF.

Aug 30, 2011 5:02PM

D Manster - You liberal nuts are the most spoiled self centered  people on the face of the earth. Liberals will NEVER help someone else themselves but will berate others whom they seem to think are "not helping" the "needy", usually the liberals themselves.


 Call me unpatriotic, unamerican or whatever other stupid thing you want, the bottom line is YOU are supposed to be responsible for YOU. Stop being self righteous and acting like you have given so much help to others when you have not. Such hypocrasy is only rooted in trying to manipulate others into doing what you yourself will not do for yourself, let alone for others.

Aug 30, 2011 8:12PM

WoW... What a  disgustingly selfish, self-centered, question.   Grow up, you faux victim !!!!  

You were TRULY lucky that OUR government was technologically able to warn your silly **** that your well-being. could possibly be in danger.  


At last count, 39 people lost their lives, and great destruction, in Irene's path.  


 Yes, it takes a village.. it's called "civilization" to cooperate and co-exist,  for the better of U.S. all, but each and everyone of U.S., has to be responsible for their part to play in their community with mutual respect, and involvement.   


I can't fathom such a question ever being asked.. So disgustingly pathetic.

Aug 30, 2011 6:30PM
Here's a crazy idea, If you can take care of yourself, you should...."take care of yourself."  If you are UNABLE to take care of yourself, I would love to see my shared resources (tax dollars, gov't services...) used to help you.  I saw the news about countless trains leaving New Orleans empty because the people that were able to get to them, CHOSE not to.  Then the Government was burdened with rescuing them also.  The Government should be counted on to insure there is a safety net available to you.  If you have the means to have a safety net and chose not to use it, that is your choice.  If you can get out of the way of the hurricane, here's my suggestion, get out of the way of the hurricane, you will be glad you did.  Hurricanes have the ability to destroy things and send them crashing into people.  Don't be one of those people.  If you can't run, call someone to push you away from the hurricane. 
Aug 30, 2011 7:16PM
reimbursed? whom and for what?  ...tornadoes destroyed 1/2 of my home and when I called all of the alleged 'FEMA assistance hot lines,' all i got was the opportunity to sign in to a fee-driven clearinghouse for other phone numbers @ $9.95 per month.

FEMA is nothing but a government sponsored fraud, probably run and directed by an insurance cartel

reward these poor victims for having to leave home?  HELL NO!! - at least they had the opportunity to get their precious asses out of harm's way - they should be thankful enough for that
Aug 30, 2011 5:29PM
Reimbursed by who? God? I'm not sure he pays in cash, but He might credit your account!
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