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NYC Sandy Insurance Claims Fast-Tracked By Lenders, City

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.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides insurance litigation representation in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or send us an e-mail.

Additional Resources:
Industry Should Work to Clarify Policy Language Post-Sandy, Dec. 10, 2012, By Chad Hemenway,
More Blog Entries:
NYC Landlord/Tenant Disputes May Arise in Hurricane Sandy Aftermath, Nov. 30, 2012, New York City Insurance Lawyer Blog