A bulletin by the National Flood Insurance Program helped spur quicker processing of Sandy flood-related claims.
Prior to the bulletin, claims were adjusted according to the policy and guidelines established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to Jeff Moore, vice president of claims for Fla.-based Wright Flood, a federal flood insurance and excess flood provider.
“It means a signed proof of loss is required on all claims, except on claims under $75,000 when the insured co-signed the report. The policy requires the insured must follow proof of loss within 60 days from the day of the loss,” Moore said.
Bulletin W 12092a granted a conditional and partial waiver of the general conditions of the policy, Moore explained.
“It allowed…Wright flood to pay a loss based on the adjuster’s report rather than a signed proof of loss. It also stated that the 60 day time limit in the general conditions would not apply. Instead, the amount of time was extended from 60 days to one year,” he said.
Moore said that if the payment that resulted from the expedited process is in dispute, the insured has up to one year to submit a proof of loss to support their disputed or supplemental claim.
The expedited process applies to Sandy only and will not apply to any future storms, though future bulletins may be issued. Future bulletins may be modified to correct any missteps taken on earlier storms, Moore said.
“FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program generally treat each storm differently. In this case, this waiver set forth in the bulletin was applicable to all the states affected by Sandy,” said Moore.
He said that a similar bulletin was put out for Hurricane Katrina. It extended the deadline for filing a proof of loss to one year and waived the initial filing of it in order to get payment. That bulletin expired with the deadline set forth at the one year anniversary.
The intent of the most recent bulletin was to increase claim closures quickly.
“This [bulletin] allowed quicker advance payments. It relieved our concerns about advancing money without signed documentation,” he said.
Because the proof of loss deadline was extended to one year after the date of loss, Moore expects to see a higher reopen rate.
As of Monday, January 28, 90 days after Sandy hit the eastern seaboard, Wright Flood reported it closed more than 10,000 claims.
“That’s 52 percent of our reported claims. We’ve issued close to $500,0000 in claim payments. We’re currently processing claims and issuing payments on an average of three days after we receive them,” said Moore.
The company expects to see a high number of supplemental claims.
“We anticipate there’ll be a significant number of supplements just due to the increase in pricing due to the lack of availability of heating and air conditioning equipment, and the labor to install it,” Moore said.
According to H. Neal Conolly, president of Wright Flood, of the approximately 20,000 claims received, about 95 percent are from New York and New Jersey. He said there have been about 11,300 claims in New Jersey and 7.500 in New York.
“One interesting fact is that the claim values in New York seem to be on average higher in terms of the average settlement for payment. We’re not sure exactly why that is, but the average claim with a payment is over $37,000,” Conolly said. “In New York the average claim has been about $45,000 plus; in New Jersey it’s almost $34,000.”
Another coverage afforded under the policy is Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC).
“It usually is instituted after the direct loss claim is settled, or at least substantially estimated. It’s triggered by the community. The community determines your house is greater than 50 percent damaged, it will require you to bring your home into compliance with the local floodplain management laws. If they make that requirement of you, you’re eligible for up to $30,000 worth of coverage for the incremental cost to bring your house into compliance,” Moore said.
Because many homes on the eastern seaboard are older, Moore thinks there will be a substantial number of ICC claims.
“The insurance application for a building permit will trigger that activity by the local government,” Moore said. “When they apply for a building permit, according to the rules of participation in the national flood insurance program they have to evaluate whether that home is appropriate to stay where it is at the height it is.”