Hurricane Sandy: Homeowners Should Take Care When Filing Property Damage Claims

November 14, 2012

Now that tri-state area residents are into the third week of Hurricane Sandy's aftermath, and immediate issues such as power restoration and supply shortages begin to resolve, the attention for many will now turn to recompensing their losses caused by damage to their property. As the New York Times reports, this process will inevitably prove to be more difficult and complex than homeowners might expect.

In the first instance, many homeowners do not have flood insurance, and most homeowner's policies do not cover damage caused by flooding. It is not uncommon in storms of Sandy's magnitude for a structure to suffer damage from multiple causes such as water, wind, or objects such as trees falling on a home. However, many insurance policies contain what is known as an "anti-concurrent causation clause," which will deny coverage for damage caused by a covered loss if an excluded loss also contributed to the same damage. This is likely to pose a problem for many residents, particularly in coastal areas such as the Jersey Shore or the Rockaways, which experienced flooding and damage by winds blowing trees onto homeowners' properties.

The Times points out that homeowners should also be careful to maximize their recovery on items that are covered. Some policies contain "law and ordinance" coverage in order to assist owners of older homes to ensure that they comply with current building codes. Insurers may dispute the necessity of certain improvements to older structures. It is also essential that homeowners insist on comparable materials to replace damaged structures, as the cost of these materials tends to rise after a natural disaster.

If you are filing a property insurance claim in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there are resources to help ease the process. While independent adjusters work for the insurance companies, public adjusters are neutral third-parties who will examine your property and advocate for you for a percentage fee of your recovery. FEMA may provide coverage for damage to your primary residence. Finally, you have the option to consult with an attorney, such as Bonny G. Rafel who can help you navigate the complexities of your policy to pursue the maximum recovery possible.