|By Michael L. Diamond, Asbury Park Press, N.J.|
What is less clear is what caused the structure overlooking the
It's a distinction that for many homeowners at the Shore is at the heart of whether they can recoup their losses. Most every household has a homeowner's policy that covers damage by wind, rain and fire. Fewer have policies that cover flood damage.
It has sent Bannon, at least, scrambling to figure out her options after her homeowner's insurance claim was denied. And it has set the stage for a fight between homeowners and insurance companies that, if Hurricane Katrina is a sign, could wind up in court for many years.
"Most of the time (with
Bannon was told by her insurance company,
Bannon, now in her late 60s, moved to
She found an end unit in a townhouse complex, which, on clear days, came with a picturesque view of the bay and
With Sandy approaching, Bannon heeded evacuation orders and stayed at the
"It was devastation in
The issue of what caused the damage first -- wind, fire or flood -- is one that homeowners and insurers fight over after virtually every hurricane. And Sandy with its 80 mph sustained winds and huge tidal surges offers more complications than normal, said
Some damaged properties are easier to assess than others. Property insurers can point to a discolored line on the wall as evidence of where flood waters reached and conclude they won't pay for damage, say, on the first floor, Knox said.
If the building isn't standing?
"It makes it pretty hard to develop an argument when the building has been demolished," Knox said.
Homeowners who find themselves in disputes have some options:
- They can hire a public insurance adjuster who can assist the property owner in preparation, presentation and adjustment of Sandy-related losses. While insurance claims adjusters work on behalf of the insurance company, public insurance adjusters work on behalf of consumers. The two sides may be able to meet and iron out differences.
- Policyholders who don't agree on the settlement amount can avoid litigation and demand an appraisal. Both sides hire appraisers. They meet to discuss differences. And if they can't agree, it is sent to an umpire to decide.
- Policyholders can hire an attorney and take the case to court -- a move that wasn't uncommon after Hurricane Katrina hit the
The Bannons have hired an attorney and now are looking for clues to piece together an expensive question: What caused
All around the borough are crumpled homes gutted by floods. But here, every other townhouse is standing. The attic is on the bottom of the pile. And all of the contents -- the oven, the exercise ball, the kitchen table -- aren't washed away, but lie in one neat heap.
At stake is whether
"This is the only logical spot for her to be happy, content,"