from New York State Office of the Governor
For Immediate Release: September 13, 2011
GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES IMMEDIATE STEPS NEW YORKERS IMPACTED BY SOUTHERN TIER FLOODING SHOULD TAKE REGARDING PROPERTY LOSSES, INSURANCE CLAIMS & DISASTER RELIEF
Best to Both File Insurance Claims and Seek Federal Disaster Assistance
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today provided advice and information to residents of the Southern Tier on what to do if they suffered property damage caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.
"It is important for those who have suffered property damage as a result of the recent storm to file an insurance claim as quickly as possible," Governor Cuomo said. "The very next thing people should do is apply for disaster assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). New Yorkers must look protect their financial futures and begin rebuilding, and state government is here to help in that process."
Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services, who oversees the State Insurance Department, said, "As with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, we will do everything we can to help those affected by the recent storm recover and get their lives back on track as quickly as possible. We will be working to ensure that this process runs smoothly."
Governor Cuomo and Superintendent Lawsky suggested the following measures for New Yorkers with property losses:
· The first step to getting your home restored is to contact your insurance company and/or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. Be aware that your policy might require that you make this notification within a certain time frame. This is extremely important because even if a claim cannot be approved under a policy, the insurance company's written denial may be required for individuals and businesses to process requests for FEMA assistance.
· FEMA disaster assistance may be available to both insured and uninsured individuals and businesses. It is also designed to help individuals and businesses when insurance settlements are delayed or in situations when settlements are insufficient to meet disaster-related needs. Homeowners have 60 days to apply for FEMA assistance, which can include both grants, which do not have to be repaid, and low-interest loans.
·FEMA also offers help to homeowners, renters and business owners who have suffered damage to their homes or businesses.
· People can qualify for FEMA assistance even if they have insurance or if their insurance does not cover the full cost of the damage.
· Reporting your damage to local officials does not qualify you for FEMA aid. You must contact FEMA directly and sign up. You can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, or by call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
· FEMA aid is not taxable.
· Take photographs or video of the damage before clean-up or repairs. After you've documented the damage, make repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property, such as covering broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls. DO NOT have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. Be prepared to provide the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made prior to the damage. Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs.
· If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company or insurance agent if you have coverage for additional living expenses.
· Ask what documents, forms and data you will need to file the claim. Keep a diary of all conversations you have with the insurance company and your insurance agent, including names, times and dates of the calls or visits and contact details.
· Be certain to give your insurance company all the information it needs. Incorrect or incomplete information may cause a delay in processing your claim.
· If the first offer made by the insurance company does not meet your expectations, be prepared to negotiate. If there is a disagreement about the claim, ask the company for the specific language in the policy in question and determine why you and the company interpret your policy differently. If you believe you are being treated unfairly, contact the Insurance Department at www.ins.state.ny.us. You can file a complaint about an insurance company at http://www.ins.state.ny.us/complhow.htm
· Consumers should contact their insurance company, agent or broker to get answers to specific questions about their policies. Consumers who need further help should feel free to contact the New York State Insurance Department's Consumer Services Bureau at 800-342-3736 which operates Monday through Friday, from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Disaster related calls only should go to the Departments disaster hotline at 800-339-1759 between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM. This hotline was implemented following Hurricane Irene and will remain open for as long as needed.
Governor Cuomo and Superintendent Lawsky have also mobilized the State Insurance Department to help New Yorkers with their claims. The Department has:
· Put all companies that sell homeowners' and auto insurance on alert to be prepared to handle claims.
· Sent staff to join other state and local agencies at state and at local emergency operations centers.
· Is sending the Department's mobile unit and staff to hard hit locations to provide on the spot assistance for consumers.
· In addition, health insurance companies have been instructed to accommodate consumers who had to evacuate their homes and as a result have to seek care from out-of-network doctors or other health providers.
The Insurance Department’s online “Homeowner’s Resource Center” offers detailed information and a number of useful tools consumers may find helpful. It can be found at the following location on the Insurance Department’s website, http://www.ins.state.ny.us/hmonindx.htm.