After Sandy: Insurance Help

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Stephen Drimalas surveys his flooded-out home in Ocean Breeze, Staten Island. (Jim O'Grady/WNYC)

J. Robert Hunter, director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America and former federal insurance administrator under Presidents Ford Carter, talks about how the insurance industry is reacting to the damage from Sandy and answers insurance questions from listeners.


Comments [8]


Seriously, if you have a sizable claim this could save you a bundle. Better you get the full payment you deserve than the insurance company's CEO gets yet another big bonus, right?


Finally, consider hiring an independent public claims adjuster when you do make a claim. Otherwise you'll be relying on the insurance company's adjuster to evaluate your claim. Say your furnace malfunctions and causes a small fire that damages your basement. Your carrier's adjuster might invoke the "cause-and-effect" clause to exclude the cost of replacing the furnace. How? He could argue that the furnace caused the damage, and that your policy covers only the "effect" of the fire, which would limit the company's responsibility to repairing the damage to your basement. However, your independent adjuster might determine that a broken valve caused the furnace to malfunction resulting in the fire. Says Howard: "If the consumer's adjuster makes the argument that the valve and not the furnace is the cause, the company is very likely to exclude the cost of the valve, which could be a $3 part, and go ahead and pay for the furnace," says Howard.

Bonus: Many insurance policies will cover your adjuster's fee, which is customarily about 10 percent of the total claim. It's there, in the small print. Read your policy.


Nov. 08 2012 09:55 PM

Public claims adjuster??

Is that the name for businesses which represent the insured homeowner when dealing with the insurance companies? I did not know about such people, and had I known when I had a straight forward loss I would not have ended up being reimbursed only 40 cents on the dollar of rebuilding replacement cost. Also, my insurer low balled on every single thing, all the contents of the house I was having replaced --at current cost replacement cost-- and when I contested their findings was told I had to find proof that my items cost more to replace. (Example, Lang medium high end ski boots -- the company said they could be replaced for $75, NEW, when they cost $350 new. And that is just one example. Everything was low balled.) Anyway, they simpley ignored all the documentation I sent to them, then claimed I had not filed my list in time, and paid me absolutely nothing.

Another issue was that I had no room in my gutted house to put any of my replacement purchases. This also meant contractors could not come in, just do the work, move on the next room, etc. I asked for storage; the insurer refused. There were boxes, furniture pushed together against walls, narrow walkways to get around. Their allowance for "moving items" was 15 man hours. Which was laughable since everything would have to be moved more than once. Fifteen hours would not begin to cover my costs. Oh, and there was nothing for me to sit on as all the chairs were behind really heavy furniture.

I was sent back to my house with one room "livable," the kitchen half available, and the bathroom, plus the hallway between these rooms. But none of my bedroom furniture was in the bedroom, such as my bed for sleeping on! They did finally relent a place my bed into the bedroom, but nothing else.

I complained to the president of the company -- got more jerking around, more demands for paperwork and time consuming itemizations. Again, I was ignored. They knew my finances and knew I could not afford a lawyer.

If I'd had one of these public adjusters as my representative, I would have been much closer to being made whole. I cannot tell you how far from whole I still am.

Nov. 08 2012 11:45 AM
Cecilia from Jersey City

We are part of a condo association which does have flood insurance to cover the common areas of the basement (elevator equipment, sprinkler, electrical panels - all of which have to be replaced) However, the bottom condo units also have private basement area with personal belongings etc. that was also under water. Would the condo insurance cover their damage as well? Would the condo also qualify for FEMA assistance?

Nov. 08 2012 11:29 AM
MG from Manhattan

PERFECT examples of how the "Private Sector" is so efficient and meets our needs.
you pay and pay and pay and then they use every trick to get out of paying the community back all the millions it has paid into the system. Let's get rid of the middle men the way we sent Romney the boot. All those "private sector" advocates need to spend a couple of days in the situation of these people.
surge , wind damage , nit picking in a disaster is the private sectors only real advantage in managing this system
You can rely on the government when we participate in it and make sure it works right, after all it is us.

Nov. 08 2012 11:23 AM

My insurance company, Allstate, has a 5% of insured value of the home as its deductible for any hurricane damage. I am also 35 miles from the nearest ocean=connected shoreline. I wonder what their deductible is for those on the shore?

Regular storms have a $1000 deductible.

So, the categorization is extremely important.

And the insurers have the big pockets to fight; little people, not so much.

Guess who will win this one.

Nov. 08 2012 11:17 AM
Vic Losick from Upper West Side (Sustaining Member)

Shouldn't now be the time to stop encouraging people from RE-building in these perilous places by the US gov't by subsidizing their flood insurance with the National Flood Insurance program? Let the PRIVate insurance market work its magic. If those premiums would be too high maybe residents will choose not to rebuild.

Nov. 08 2012 11:16 AM
Josh from New York, NY

I know this might be a reach, but I'm desperate for help... We have renters insurance for a coop apt. that we own, but have many valuable things in a storage facility. We just learned that our storage facility in Queens was flooded, and have been told that our unit was also flooded -- and all of our contents were likely destroyed. We did NOT have flood insurance for our renter's insurance, since we don't live in a flood zone.

Is there anything we can do? Can your guest provide ANY advice / suggestions? I'd appreciate any help you could provide... Thank you!

Nov. 08 2012 11:16 AM

We had a lot of our things in storage with a moving and storage company in the Bronx. The Harlem River flooded and a significant number of our things were damaged. The company's insurance apparently only covers .30 per pound. Our co-op insurance does not cover anything. Any chance of recovering more for the damaged replaceable things?

Nov. 08 2012 11:03 AM

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