In late October of 2012, weather forecasters around the country and particularly along the East Coast started warning about a storm that was forming in the Caribbean. As the storm grew and moved north from its point of origin in the western Caribbean through the Greater Antilles and on to Jamaica and Cuba, the warnings grew more strident and municipalities began issuing warnings and evacuation orders to residents of coastal states.
Even as residents began their preparations they had no idea how bad things would be. By the time that the storm hit land in the area of Atlantic City, New Jersey on October 29th, the “perfect storm” factors that the forecasters had worried about came together – the strong tropical storm combined with the fact that it was high tide and with a powerful Nor’easter that was sweeping across the country, and delivered on all the experts’ worst promises.
The storm devastated the states of New Jersey and New York, with total national damage estimated at $64 billion dollars, though that number could still continue to grow as insurance estimates continue to pour in.
Insurance Claims Exceed Available Funds
As home owners and business owners alike have surveyed the damage that the storm has done to their properties, whether in terms of wind damage or flood damage, many have been philosophical, indicating that “this is why we have insurance.” But the sad reality is that many insurance companies are being less than cooperative when it comes to Hurricane Sandy insurance claims.
State regulators are fielding hundreds of complaints from consumers who are encountering difficulties getting claims adjusters to respond to their requests and inquiries, and still more who are having their claims flat out denied.
The reasons for this are pretty clear: the storm created more damage than the insurance companies may have available: according to the Consumer Federation of America, wind damage claims alone will probably come to over $10 billion dollars, claims for flood damage may reach the same number – But the National Flood Insurance Program only has about $4 billion available in its coffers.
FEMA can supplement NFIP, but not by more than a billion dollars, and even that is only with presidential approval. One of the easiest ways for insurance companies to react in the face of the vast shortfall is simply to deny claims, or to provide compensation that is far less than what is owed under the property owners’ insurance coverage.
Reasons for Hurricane Sandy Insurance Claims to be Denied
There are a number of reasons why Super Storm Sandy claims can be flat out denied or underpaid. The first thing you should do if your claim is denied is to call the company and find out exactly why, and be sure to document the reason that has been provided if they cite specific language within your policy or specific damage details.
One advantage that policy holders have is that once a reason has been given for a claim not being paid, they cannot come back and revise their answer and give a different reason later if their position has been disproven. Insurance companies often insert language in their policies that you were unaware of or didn’t fully understand.
Others are denying claims or diminishing the amount of coverage provided, citing hurricane deductibles which substantially diminish the amount of compensation you can receive (which have been waived by many states since the storm was downgraded from hurricane status before it made landfall).
Whatever the reason, if your claim has been denied by your insurance company, all is not lost – there are several things that can be done to help you fight for what you deserve.
What to do if your Hurricane Sandy Insurance Claim is denied
If you have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy and have submitted a claim that was either denied or underpaid, there are several things that can be done. First, make certain that you document every single interaction you have had regarding your claim, from the time that you first submitted it and spoke to your insurance company, to when your claims adjuster arrived, and what they said while they were on your property, and all of your follow up.
Having that information not only provides you with important proof of your own efforts but also puts your insurance company on notice that they are dealing with somebody who is taking the issue seriously and is not going to just walk away.
Convey your concerns to both your insurance carrier and to your state regulator about any issues you may have with the speed of response, the amount that is offered, or the reason your claim has been denied. If you do not get immediate satisfaction, your next step is to contact an attorney.
An experienced Hurricane Sandy lawyer at Danziger & De Llano will be able to navigate the difficulties of working with the insurance company, the language of its policy with you and any denials that they have given you, and will make sure that you are able to collect the maximum allowed under your policy.