N.J. Regulators Offer Tips on Managing Settlement Process Post-Sandy

December 18, 2012

New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Acting Commissioner Ken Kobylowski is offering advice to consumers in an effort to help explain the Sandy claims process.

The regulator said that so far, more than 458,000 New Jersey homeowner’s, auto, business and flood claims have been filed following the unprecedented storm made landfall.

“Settling your claim fairly is a key step in reconstructing your home, repairing your car or restarting your business,” said Acting Commissioner Kobylowski.

Morris Tetro, Hurricane Sandy survivor, measures the foundation of his daughter's house in Union Beach, N.J., for replacement cost estimates. The Photo was taken on Dec. 3 by Liz Roll/FEMA.

“The Christie Administration is working with the insurance industry, its federal partners and insurance consumers to eliminate confusion and reduce stress as much as possible throughout the rebuilding effort. I have joined Department staff in the Governor’s mobile office units and met with consumers to discuss their claims filing issues,” said Kobylowski.

“We will continue to assist citizens out in the field, online and on the phone through our extended hour consumer service center as New Jersey recovers and people restore their livelihood and homes.”

The Claims Process

• A homeowner’s policy covers damage to the home and its contents while a renter’s policy only covers contents. If a car was damaged, a separate claim is required to be filed with the auto insurer.

• The standard homeowner’s or renter’s policy does not cover flood damage. If the insured has a policy with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), contact the agent or insurer to file a claim for that policy as well. The insured needs to file a separate claim even if done through a Write Your Own policy from an insurer. Damage from a storm surge is considered flood damage.

• After reporting the claim, an adjuster will visit the insured’s home to assess the damage. The adjuster will want to see all damaged items removed from the home and any photos or video of contents removed to make the home safe. The more information provided about the loss, the faster the claim process is usually settled.

• If the insurer has not responded promptly to the claim, do not hesitate to call the claims department to find out if an adjuster has been assigned.

Insureds can call the Department of Banking and Insurance if they think the insurance company is not responding quickly enough or is not completing a reasonable investigation of the claim. The NFIP has oversight of flood claims handling — however, the Department may act as an ombudsman for citizens having difficulty settling flood claims.

• If the insured decides to hire a public adjuster, the adjuster will go through the same process and take his or her fee from the insurance claim settlement. Make sure the public adjuster hired is licensed by the Department by calling or verifying online.

• If there are disagreements between the insured, the insurer and the adjuster, try to first resolve them with the insurer. The insureds should not feel rushed or pushed to agree with something they do not feel is fair. If the insured cannot reach an agreement with the carrier, contact the Department for assistance.

Claims Payment

The insured may receive multiple checks. The first will likely be an emergency advance on the larger payment. Contents or personal property reimbursement will be made out to the insured.

If there is a mortgage on the home, payment for structural damage may be payable to the insured and the insured’s mortgage holder. Make sure to have the proper procedure in place with the mortgage company to process the payment as quickly as possible.

For any questions or assistance regarding the coverage in the policy, consumers can contact the Department at 1-800-446-7467 or go online at www.dobi.nj.gov. More information on handling the flood insurance claim through the NFIP is available at www.floodsmart.gov.

Source: N.J. Department of Banking and Insurance

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.