In THE PERFECT STORM: The Science Behind Subrogating Catastrophic Flood Losses, hydrology expert witness Richard Van Bruggen writes:
Natural disasters, especially major flood losses, remain the nemesis of most insurance carriers. The damages can be astronomical and the chances of subrogation appear slim when everyone has suffered similar damage. However, when it seems that only God is responsible for sending devastation of such magnitude, it is time for subrogation professionals to roll up their sleeves and get to work. It is also time to hire an expert in hydrology or hydraulics. With the help of a hydrology expert, Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer recovered more than $7 million for Lloyds of London in the Great U.S.A. Flood of 1993. Five years later, with the help of expert, Rick Van Bruggen, Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer recovered more than $2.5 million for Transportation Insurance Company after the Great California Flood. With perfect storms such as these, subrogation recovery almost always seems impossible. In reality, however, quite the contrary is true. Flood waters, just like pieces on a chess board, never lie. The subrogation professional’s distinct advantage is that while God may send the rain, what happens to the flood waters once they reach Earth is almost always affected by man.
The behavior of water is predictable. It is affected by gravity, seeks its own level, and follows the contour of the Earth’s surface – whether natural or man-made. As a result, with the use of a qualified hydrologist, subrogation counsel can accurately map, mimic, and image the exact behavior of the flood waters, before, during and after the flood event. This ability to prove what happened to the water means that we can accurately point to the effect that man-made objects, construction projects, barriers, and other obstacles had on the water, and show precisely how the specific flood damage being subrogated was affected or caused by these man-made conditions. It is, therefore, critical that the subrogation professional have a working knowledge of and understand the behavior of water and the science behind hydrology.