Insurance woes plague SeaWorld guests after rain flooded parking lot

ORLANDO, Fla. — Some SeaWorld Orlando visitors whose cars were flooded when a downpour hit earlier in July are finally finding out what insurance will do for them.

Car owners will only get paid if they watched their car flood with their own eyes, otherwise they need video or pictures to prove it.

Those who stayed in the park and only realized days later what happened face another insurance issue.

"A picture is worth a thousand words," said Hans Kennon, an attorney.

For Lisa Sykes, of Tennessee, a video of the parking lot flooding turned out to be worth several thousand dollars.

"By the time we got back, the water was gone," she said.

Sykes was inside SeaWorld with her three kids three weeks ago as the parking lot flooded, with her car in waist-deep water.

"As a day or two went on, the car started going haywire. On Tuesday, I had to have the car towed and I didn't find out until around Thursday what had happened to the car when I saw the news coverage," she said.

So instead of seeing the water and filing a claim right away, Sykes had a mechanic working on her car, trying to figure out what happened.

Kennon said that makes filing a claim with insurance more complicated.

"Insurers don't like it when you call them after the fact and after you've fixed things to reimburse you," he said.

For people from Florida, he said it gets even stickier. With the risk of flash flooding and recent hurricanes, insurers may have an easier time saying they're not responsible.

If a driver didn't see their car in water and the video doesn't show it either, how can they prove this flooded lot ruined their car?

As for the costs while Sykes tried to fix her car and get her family home, Kennon said she and others are likely out of luck.

Pictures and video showed that the water near some cars was knee deep or higher.

"At one point, I was up to my waist in the water, pushing people's cars out," said James Reitmeier.

Channel 9 reported earlier in July that between three and four inches of rain fell in the area within an hour and twenty minutes.

While some parkgoers understand SeaWorld can't control the rain, they'd like to know who is going to foot the bill for some of the damages the rain caused to their vehicles.

"I've called Risk Management 17 times," said Judith Lavalliere. "Emailed them probably 14 times, called back and it says that you would be on hold for 90 minutes so I hung up. I gave up."

Lavalliere, who had to scoop out water out of her car, said her car back seat carpet sustained severe damage.

"I have to have the airbags looked at, the wiring, the whole carpet ripped out and replaced," Lavalliere said.

A SeaWorld representative told Channel 9 in an email that only a small portion of the theme park's parking lot was affected by flooding and that they're working to contact every guest who called with damage claims.

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