|By Lee Howard, The Day, New London, Conn.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"This time, it was not a hurricane, so there will be no hurricane deductibles,"
O'Sullivan said a state law enacted earlier this year after confusion over coverage of damage from Irene gave insurance companies more precise guidance about what constitutes a hurricane. Now, there must be sustained winds of 74 mph for a hurricane to be declared. The highest sustained winds recorded during Sandy were 59 mph in
This means that insurance companies will have to make a complete payout on a policy after the standard deductible, which for most homes ranges between
If Sandy had been declared a hurricane in
Some homes in particularly vulnerable waterfront locations, O'Sullivan said, would have been faced with even higher deductibles of 5 percent in the case of a hurricane declaration, forcing them to pay
"They're an extremely responsive agency," Lee said.
Estimates of the nationwide costs associated with Hurricane Sandy cleanup range from
Lee pointed out that anyone without insurance or whose policy does not cover all the losses may be eligible for relief of up to
"There's one huge catch, though: You have to exhaust your insurance first," he said.
Lee said homeowners with complaints about coverage should first turn to the state insurance department. The second line of defense, he said, would be to call the state bar association's Disaster Insurance Hotline, which has lawyers to offer advice in resolving insurance disputes.
Lee estimated that 80 percent of homeowners accept the amounts offered by insurance adjusters. Others can turn to dispute resolution or, in the worst-case scenario, will decide to sue insurers in state or even federal courts.
"The law in
O'Sullivan, the insurance department spokesman, said a lot of people are still picking up the pieces after Sandy, and his office has not fielded a flood of questions about coverage. But he anticipates many questions about whether water damage is covered (usually, if the problem starts with a roof being blown off), what to do if a neighbor's tree causes problems (covered by the homeowners policy of the affected property) and what happens if a car is damaged by falling limbs (paid through an automobile's comprehensive coverage).
Water damage is covered by a basic policy only if the problem starts with a roof being blown off, followed by water seepage, according to Lee. Other flooding and water seepage usually requires separate flood insurance, according to experts.
O'Sullivan said other coverage often varies company to company, so homeowners should review their policies. With 1,300 out-of-state adjusters eligible to help out policyholders, he expected insurance companies to act quickly in processing claims.
"Don't give up," advised Lee. "Keep pressing them. Document everything."
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