Articles Posted in Insurance Law

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A new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau indicates that one out of every three auto insurance claims made in New York City is fraudulent. It’s one of the top cities for allegedly fraudulent claims potentially linked to organized crime.Our New York City insurance fraud lawyers know that insurance agencies, and auto insurance agencies in particular, are cracking down more than ever on insurance fraud. And in light of information that false auto insurance claims add approximately $240 million to insurance premiums just in New York City alone, the whole thing is pitting neighbor against neighbor – literally.

The New York Post recently reported that Staten Island residents are flooding lawmakers to tip them off to neighbors who are registering their vehicles out-of-state illegally so as to reduce their auto insurance costs. New York has the fourth-highest car insurance rate in the nation.

In Brooklyn, for example, the average insurance premium is $2,000.

The New Yorkers Stand Against Insurance Fraud reports that more than one-tenth of all vehicles owned by New Yorkers are registered out-of-state for this reason.

Our New York legal team has ample experience in representing both insurance carriers and policy holders, so we bring a unique perspective to the table that ultimately benefits our clients. As of right now, the enforcement on out-of-state registrations is essentially non-existent. State legislators are currently working to draft a measure that would change that.

But it’s worth noting that registering your vehicle out-of-state is far from the only type of auto insurance fraud in New York.

One of those involves third-party repair shops and counterfeit airbags. Let’s say you are in a crash. You take your vehicle to be repaired, your insurance picks up the tab. However, you might only later find out that the airbags in the vehicle are counterfeit – meaning the insurance company has paid for junk and the driver is left with a vehicle that isn’t safe.

Another common type of auto insurance fraud is in the form of staged accidents. The NICB reports that there has been a more than 100 percent increase in this type of action in the few short years between 2008 and 2011. In many cases, two drivers will work in a team to involve another unsuspecting person in an accident so that they can collect the insurance money.

Some unsuspecting victims have fallen prey to agent fraud. This is a form of fraud whereby the insurance agent pockets a consumer’s money, yet doesn’t actually establish the insurance. The consumer only finds out about it when they are involved in a wreck and find out they aren’t covered. Another form of this is something called sliding, in which an agent may bulk up your plan with services or features you don’t want and for which you didn’t ask. This boosts the agent’s commission, but costs the consumer several hundred dollars annually.

No matter what your situation or whether your are a policy holder, body shop or an insurance carrier, we are here to fight for your rights.
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We are now more than a month removed from Hurricane Sandy, but the city has a long way to go in terms of untangling the insurance nightmare that has unfolded in its wake.Our New York City insurance lawyers understand there are more than 360,000 Sandy victims who have pending insurance claims to sort through. However, despite efforts to fast-track the process, we suspect that there will be many New Yorkers who will be unsatisfied with the outcome of the settlements – or lack thereof – offered by the insurance companies.

If your insurance company is trying to avoid paying up, you need the experience of a skilled insurance law attorney – someone who will fight for you so that you can begin the process of rebuilding. in many cases, these companies send out low-ball offers, counting on the delay and hassle of putting up a fight being enough to induce a homeowner to settle for less. We are here to tell you in such cases you are going to be better off consulting an attorney.

Late last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he had met with top insurance company executives to prompt an expedited claims process. As with any insurance claim, an adjuster must inspect the damage to the home or business before the amount can be paid. Previously, the deadline for the insurance adjuster to conduct the inspection was 15 days. That has since been reduced to six.

However, many companies are finding they don’t have enough adjusters that are licensed in New York State to be able to contend with the volume of claims. So the governor has approved a number of temporary state licenses to out-of-state adjusters to help speed the process.

Some insurance companies have even sent mobile claims offices to areas that were hardest hit.

And just recently, the state’s Department of Financial Services announced it would increase production of their endorsements of borrowers’ initial insurance checks, which tend to be worth anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. That’s a process that can take anywhere from two to four weeks, and now it should take just a few days. Additionally, some lenders promised to immediately release checks that would assist in making certain homes livable, while also providing policy holders funds to live elsewhere in the meantime.

Still, if Katrina and other major disasters have taught us anything, it is that at the end of the day, these are businesses, and they are working to protect their bottom lines. In the aftermath of Katrina, the Gulf Coast saw throngs of policyholders denied legitimate claims for repairs. This only serves to slow the recovery process.

What was a key issue then and may be one for us here today is the determination of whether damage was caused by wind or flood. After Katrina, home and business owners were shocked to learn that their insurance companies refused to pay their claims on the basis that the damage had been caused not by wind, but by flood – something that was not covered under the majority of policies.

The fact is, most insurance policies carry protection for wind damage, but very few include coverage for flooding. There may be a select few individuals who paid high premiums for additional insurance to cover flooding, but before Sandy hit, most New Yorkers probably thought they would never need it.

What may end up complicated matters is if part of the damage is determined to have been caused by flooding, while other parts by wind. Which caused more damage? And who shoulders the burden of proof in that case?

Our New York insurance lawyers are ready to answer all of your hurricane damage insurance-related questions.
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