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Insurance Tips for Long Islanders in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

As Long Islanders begin to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, many of them will likely turn to their homeowners’ insurance policy for coverage.

This is especially true following Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement that New York homeowners will not have to pay potentially large hurricane deductibles on insurance claims stemming from damage caused by the storm. Hurricane deductibles are commonly found in many Long Island homeowners’ insurance policies. These hurricane deductibles are based on a percentage of a property’s insured value and typically range from one percent of a home’s insured value to five percent. So for example, with a five percent deductible on a home insured for $500,000, the homeowner would have to pay for the first $25,000 of damage.

The New York State Department of Financial Services has informed the insurance industry that hurricane deductibles should not be triggered for Sandy because the storm did not have sustained hurricane-force winds when it made landfall in New York. This means instead of facing significant hurricane deductibles before seeing a dollar of insurance money, Long Island homeowners will only have to pay their standard deductible, which is typically in the range of $1,000.

If you have storm related damage, you should report a claim to your insurance company as soon as possible. Not only do all homeowners’ insurance policies require the prompt reporting of claims, but with insurance companies already being overwhelmed with claims you want to do whatever you can to make sure your claim is at the top of the insurance claims department’s paperwork pile.

Remember, damage to your home should be reported to your homeowners’ insurance company but flood damage is only covered by flood insurance, which is a federal program administered by FEMA. Homeowners who have flood insurance and have flood damage must submit flood damage claims through that insurance.

When you initially call your insurance company to file your claim, it is important to provide policy numbers and all information relevant to the loss. Be as detailed as possible in your report. Offer to provide any evidence of damage. Document all of your losses with photos or video. To best document losses, take photographs or videos showing the extent of your losses before any clean up has taken place.

As far as repairs, you should only make repairs necessary to prevent further damage to property, such as tarping or covering a roof or hole in the ceiling, covering broken windows with plywood or plastic, or securing any loose objects. Do not make permanent repairs until after the insurance company has inspected the damage. If you purchased any supplies or materials to make temporary repairs or hired any contractors to perform emergency work, be sure to save your receipts because reimbursement is possible. You should also keep damaged personal property like electronics or furniture until after a settlement has been reached or the company advises you that the property may be disposed of.

Once you have reported your claim, be cooperative and persistent. The insurance companies will be backlogged with claims so do not expect your claim to get resolved in a matter of days. However, in order to keep the process moving as quickly as possible, be sure to promptly respond to the insurance company’s requests for information and do not hesitate to follow up if deadlines are not met or your questions go unanswered. In disaster situations, homeowners also commonly have to interact with more than one claims adjuster, so keep detailed notes or a diary of all conversations with the insurance company, including the adjuster’s name, as well as the times and dates of all calls or visits.

Finally, if you have a disagreement with your insurance company, you have options. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, especially if the insurance company’s first offer does not meet your expectations. If you disagree about some aspect of the claim, ask the insurance company for the specific language in your policy and determine why you and the company interpret your policy differently. If you believe you are being treated unfairly, you should consider filing a claim with the New York State Department of Financial Services, which is the agency responsible for the oversight of insurance companies in New York. Homeowners unable to resolve disputes with insurers can file complaints at http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/fileacomplaint.htm.