SteveK November 1st, 2013
The insured victims of Sandy’s flood waters got good news
when FEMA extended the Proof of Loss (POL) filing deadline until April 28, 2014. This extension can have a downside. Many who have unresolved claims will see this as an opportunity to continue to negotiate with insurance carriers on their own or through a public adjuster. History shows that once a carrier has investigated and paid what it believes to be the correct amount of damages, it is not likely to pay any additional monies. FEMA is reporting that most carriers consider more than 95 percent of their claims to be closed. While the carriers may characterize the claims as closed, this does not mean the insured does not have options.
One hidden trap relates to the statute of limitations or the date by which you, the insured, must file a lawsuit to protect your claim. The language of the policy requires that suit be brought within one year of the date of the written denial of all or part of the claim. In order to file suit, you must comply with all requirements of the policy, which includes filing a POL. If the carrier denied all or part of your claim, FEMA contends the statute of limitations began to run from the date of denial. It is possible for your case to be barred before the new deadline for the POL to be filed.
Insurance carriers follow unwritten rules in handling flood claims. The head of claims for two large flood carriers have confirmed this statement during depositions. There are no written instructions in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) documents, including your policy and the NFIP handbook, to explain the correct way to complete the POL. Myriad pitfalls could lead to your claim being rejected.
As a part of your duty as an insured, you must file a sworn POL with documentation listed in the policy. One of the requirements is “Specifications of damaged buildings and detailed repair estimates.” There is no document that we have been able to find that explains what constitutes “specifications” or “detailed repair estimates.” At least one
claims manager indicated her company follows no discernible standard; it is simply a matter of “judgment.” This too could lead to your claim being
At least one major flood carrier will reject a claim, without explanation, if an insured includes even one item that is not covered by flood insurance in the POL and supporting documentation.
As an insured, you need to hire an attorney who is knowledgeable in flood law before it is too late.
DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis, Lehrer & Flaum, PC (www.dbnjlaw.com ) is a full service law firm in New Jersey which provides a broad range of legal services, including the representation of clients in environmental and defense of toxic exposure matters. For additional information about the matters in this bulletin or in the firm’s environmental practice, please contact Lisa M. Fittipaldi who heads our Flood Victims Litigation Group.
The information contained in this blog is intended solely for informational purposes; it is a advertising publication of DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis, Lehrer & Flaum P.C.This publication is intended to alert recipients of developments in the law and is not intended to provide legal counsel, advice or opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended as general information only. You are urged to consult a member of this firm or your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you might have.