FEMA settled hundreds of claims involving wrongfully denied Hurricane Sandy claims faced with allegations of misconduct. Homeowners in New York and New Jersey who suffered property damage in the 2012 storm have brought approximately 1,500 lawsuits alleging that private insurers under the Write Your Own (WYO) policies written in partnership with the Federal Flood Program engaged in bad faith practices.
According to Reuters, FEMA has tentatively settled 160 of the lawsuits and another 90 settlements are reported to be imminent. It also is expected that another 1,000 lawsuits will be settled in the coming weeks. The lawsuits involve a range of claims involving misconduct by the private insurance carriers related to Hurricane Sandy claims, which include undisclosed and falsified engineering reports.
The settlements followed an announcement by FEMA indicating that it would plan to meet privately with policyholders in these lawsuits to reach settlements. This response from FEMA comes in the wake of a court order by a Brooklyn judge indicating that the practice of falsifying insurance policies could be “widespread.” The court also directed the private insurance companies to turn over draft engineering reports in hundreds of cases.
While private insurers evaluate the property damage suffered by policyholders in flood claims and process payments to homeowners under the National Flood Insurance Program, FEMA ultimately is responsible for the federal funds used to pay claims under the federal insurance program. The misconduct by these private insurers in manipulating, falsifying and hiding expert reports to avoid paying legitimate claims related to this natural disaster is extremely egregious. The conduct is so extreme that it goes beyond the civil lawsuits that have been filed related to Hurricane Sandy claims involving manipulation of such reports. The New York State Attorney General’s Office is investigating potential criminal charges involving “insurance issues” related to Sandy claims.
The civil lawsuits and criminal investigation demonstrates that policyholders who are victimized by predatory insurance company practices can successfully fight back. When insurance companies engage in sharp practices to deny claims, policyholders should seek out legal advice. In the case of these Sandy claims, the insurers continued their unethical practices even in the midst of litigation by withholding critical information from engineering experts during the discovery process. The private insurers in these lawsuits were willing to falsify and withhold evidence in violation of the discovery process. Because insurance companies have a multitude of advantages that include numerous lawyers, experts, adjusters and litigation resources, policyholders should retain an experienced insurance claims attorney to protect their interests and seek the benefits they are entitled to.
If your home has been damaged by a natural disaster or other peril and your insurer refuses to fulfill its promises under your policy, you might be able to file a lawsuit or seek other forms of relief. If you have questions about Florida property insurance claims, you are welcome to contact my law firm and speak with an experienced Miami hurricane insurance claims attorney. My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.