How to Make a Hurricane Sandy Insurance Claim
Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast with a vengeance last week, unleashing heavy winds and flooding that wrecked the Jersey Shore, battered New York City and left millions without electricity. The storm left unprecedented destruction up and down the Atlantic seaboard:
- At least 110 people were killed and 8 million left without electricity in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy’s passage through the United States
- Residential communities on New Jersey’s Long Beach Island were nearly wiped out by surging waves and driving winds
- Hospitals in New York City had to evacuate hundreds of patients as power failed, shutting down vital lifesaving equipment
- At least 80 houses burned down in Queen’s Rockaway neighborhood.
Worse yet, just as homeowners are picking through the wreckage, a Nor’easter with winds up to 55 mph is on track to hit the eastern states in the middle of the week with the potential to exacerbate the doom and destruction.
The cost of Sandy’s damage is estimated to reach at least $50 billion, while many homeowners are just getting back to discover the state their houses have been left in. Last week Lawyers.com provided some insight on how to make a property insurance claim and ensure you receive the full relief that your policy entitles:
Wind & Flood Insurance
Will your insurance cover damage to home and property? It depends on the policy. Make sure you know exactly what is in your paperwork before starting the claims process. Most policies do cover wind damage to a house and its contents; however flood damage usually is a supplemental option and not all homeowners will be covered. Of course, many houses built in flood plains are required by their mortgage lenders to have flood insurance.
New Orleans trial attorney Fred L. Herman explained to Lawyers.com that the first step in making an insurance claim is preparation: “The first thing people should do is document what is in their homes,” Herman says, advising homeowners to take photos of all their valuables so it’s easier to prove loss when a destructive event does occur.
Once the storm passes, it’s time to survey any damage and get organized to make an insurance claim and prepare for any legal processes that may need to follow. Make sure to document every step of the process, from the damage to your home to the exact time and date you call your insurer to start the claims process. Many companies have limits as to how long they are permitted to wait before responding to your claim, and some states have laws mandating a timely response.
Protect Your Rights
If your insurer is unresponsive, or doesn’t agree to pay for damage that should be covered in the policy, it’s time to call an attorney to protect your assets.
Sometimes a sternly worded letter alerting the insurer to its mistake will be enough to rectify the situation; in other cases you might have to take the company to court to be compensated. Every state has an insurance commissioner, as well, who may be able to help in the case of a disputed claim.
Remember, insurance companies are there to help you, and you’ve put hundreds or thousands of dollars into them so they will be there when you need them. Do not let yourself get cheated out of compensation you’re entitled to based on a mistake or bad-faith action by your insurer.
“If one would take a look at the history of Katrina and events like Katrina, there are many hundreds if not thousands of claims that have to be litigated for one reason or another,” Herman says. “Sometimes it’s a legitimate dispute. Sometimes it’s an issue to what coverage is applied. Sometimes it’s an issue of the value of property destroyed and how to measure that value.”
“Experience teaches us many hundreds if not thousands [of claims] require some intervention of the legal system,” Herman says. “And that’s unfortunate, particularly after a disaster.”