Hurricane Sandy Insurance Claims: Settled or Underestimated

Insurance companies are reporting that the vast majority of insurance claims stemming from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy have been settled. Unfortunately, a significant number of homeowners do not feel that they have been justly compensated.

What Has Been Done

On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy made landfall near the Atlantic City area of New Jersey. The storm caused deaths and property damage across a wide area of the Eastern seaboard, but especially impacted the states of New York and New Jersey. After the initial devastation and flooding, homeowners began returning to their houses, surveying the damage, and contacting their insurance companies. The insurers sent armies of adjustors to assess the damage and determine appropriate payments. A late April report from the Insurance Information Institute states that these insurance companies have now settled 93 percent of the claims for damage from the storm. It is estimated that insurers will pay out 18.8 billion dollars to their policyholders. This amount will rank Sandy as the third-most expensive storm in U.S. history, surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew. The payout includes nearly 1.1 million homeowners, 200,000 business owners, and a quarter million vehicle owners.

The Problem

Despite these enormous payouts, some individual policyholders are arguing that damage to their homes was grossly underestimated and that payments were not nearly adequate for the necessary repairs. Although some of these claims are unsubstantiated or stem from a misunderstanding of their insurance coverage, many homeowners seem to have a valid argument. One homeowner received a check for $201.90 to pay for repairs to her home. This amount did not even come close to covering the damages. Just making the recommended repairs to the roof cost her $500, and other needed repairs set her back even more. She, along with other homeowners, has hired a lawyer to combat her insurance company.

The Recourse

Homeowners facing this situation should seek legal counsel immediately. Retaining a lawyer does not mean that a case will automatically go to court, but legal advice can provide important protection. For instance, in some cases simply cashing the check sent from the insurance company can signify legal agreement with the amount of compensation the insurer has provided. This agreement can forestall the homeowner from bringing any legal action against the insurance provider.

If you believe that your insurance claim was underpaid, whether from Superstorm Sandy or any other incident, it is in your best interest to secure legal representation. Contact the office of Witkon Law today for a free consultation.

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Commercial Real Estate Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy 2012

Hurricane Sandy 2012 (Photo credit: charliekwalker)

After the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, commercial real estate transactions may be on the upswing in Long Island. The flooding and storm surges that preceded landfall and the wind and rain that accompanied the storm caused billions of dollars in property damage. Many business owners in Nassau and Suffolk counties returned to their businesses after the storm to find massive damage. Many properties were a total loss, and most had significant loss.

Business Closures

With the help of lending from the Small Business Administration and other disaster loans, many businesses have begun the rebuilding process. Unfortunately, due to the recession, some businesses were already so financially strapped that this new setback found them with an already depleted reserve. Many of these are already in too much debt to take advantage of the offered loans and will have to go out of business.

In addition to the businesses that close as a direct result of Hurricane Sandy, many other businesses are experiencing a secondary financial impact. Businesses in the midst of rebuilding are forced to cancel contracts with vendors and other companies so that they can direct their finances toward the restoration process. These vendors then experience economic losses that may lead to more business closings.

All of these business closings results in an increased number of available commercial real estate properties. These properties can often be acquired for a significantly lower price than they might have sold for a week before the storm hit the area.

Risk of Purchase

However, purchasing these properties comes with a significant risk. Buildings that appear sound may conceal hidden storm damage. Insurance companies that have been hurt by the recent massive payouts may be reluctant to ensure properties or charge expensive premiums.

Potential for Profit

On the other hand, a purchase of storm-damaged property may turn out to be a lucrative investment. A building can be purchased now at a reduced price, and repaired. Then, when the real estate market has recovered, that same building may be sold at a significant profit. This pattern has been demonstrated follow storms of this nature in many other parts of the coastal U.S.

If you are considering making a commercial property purchase in this time of financial recovery, make sure that your interests are protected. Along with a real estate broker to help you locate and choose your property, contact a real estate lawyer to help you navigate the sometimes-confusing paperwork. The Law Offices of David Witkon have considerable experience in commercial real estate transactions in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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