In 2012 Hurricane Sandy devastated the United States, and was the second most costly hurricane behind Katrina. It was also the second major storm of the year and devastated a path along eight different countries and took over 200 lives. Estimated property damage was about 75 billion, and over 1,200 lawsuits have been filed for unfairly denied claims. Now, five years later, some victims are still waiting for the hearings they requested and the payment of their claim.
A report by “60 Minutes” in 2015 showed that FEMA engineers had altered reports to minimize damage, which artificially lowered or rejected payouts. Not only were these engineers unlicensed, but they were also using the changed reports to justify a heavily reduced insurance payout and cut the insurance companies costs in time and money. This has resulted in hundreds of Hurricane Sandy victims suing the insurance companies and engineering firms who are part of the FEMA-backed flood program.
At that time executives from FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) promised to reexamine the claims and resolve them within 90 days. FEMA has since made significant changes to its flood insurance program, but there are still homeowners with claims that need to be reviewed and completed.
In 2015 more than 19,000 claims were eligible for review by the deadline in mid-October. FEMA reviewed 11,000 of those claims and disbursed more than $50 million to underpaid policyholders. Despite this, there are still some victims that did not receive the proper notification in time. Therefore, the deadline for these appeals has been extended to October 25. This will allow approximately 415 victims to complete the process that was due to be concluded by mid-September. The additional time is welcome and needed for those victims still waiting for a fair resolution. The delay in payouts is like pouring salt on a wound, and being in limbo for more than four years is not helping the healing process.
FEMA has made great efforts to amend the reports that private insurers falsified reports and shortchanged homeowners. By February 2017 almost 18,656 policyholders have received a complete review of their claims. So far 14,561 of those claims have been closed and an additional $177,000 has been dispersed. About 18% of those reviewed claims did not require any additional payment. There were also 1,631 lawsuits settled separately through mediation and paid out an additional $164 million.
That brings the total FEMA payments for Hurricane Sandy property damage to over $250 million. For some victims it is still too little too late. Bob Kaible of Long Beach, NY had proof that his engineering report had been altered. His claim was denied and repeated efforts to get the insurance company to correct the error went nowhere. Kaible received only $60,000 while the cost of rebuilding his property was over $300,000. He ended up having to sell his property.
Kaible has since taken his case to a trial lawyer and is proceeding with justice through the court system. If you have had any property damage claims denied, be sure to contact us at Voss Law Firm where we can help you get fair compensation for all damages and injuries.