Insurance problems still loom for Sandy flood victims in NJ
In the coming weeks, FEMA will reach out to all homeowners who filed Superstorm Sandy flood insurance claims -- informing them they can re-open their cases if their claims were denied, or if they feel they did not get a fair settlement. One expert warns that, for some victims, there may still be challenges ahead.
The decision to allow claims to be re-opened comes after numerous instances where insurance companies were shown to have altered engineering reports so claims could be fraudulently denied.
Catastrophic Property Damage Attorney Rob Trautmann believes the decision by FEMA is welcome news and certainly appropriate, but major problems may be on the horizon.
"I expect FEMA will get a good response, but part of the problem is letters are going to be sent to policyholders through the mail, and a lot of these people still aren't in their homes, so the address frankly that FEMA is going to have for them is no good, and mail forwarding expires after a year or so," Trautmann said.
He foresees another big obstacle as well.
"They're going to have a proof issue as to what their actual damages should be," Trautmann said. "Some people tore their houses down, some people walked away and sold their houses as is some people went into foreclosure. Those people are going to have a very difficult time demonstrating what their damages were at the time of the loss, and they'll need some kind of help forensically establishing what their damages were at the time of the loss."
Trautmann said the ability to review engineering reports, before they were doctored, will certainly help to establish the scope of the damage but it may not truly reflect the cost of repairing the damage.
"What could be a very minor repair based on the way the home was constructed becomes very complicated because you have to remove other parts of the home to get access, and that sort of thing. And if some of these repairs have been made, if the homes have been demolished, it's going to become difficult," he said.
Seaside Heights resident Rosemary Kleinfelder, who has filed a lawsuit against her insurance carrier says she and her husband are glad other homeowners will be able to re-open their insurance claims.
"It's wonderful," she said. "I am so happy and pleased to hear that, they deserve it. Too many homeowners have suffered a great deal, it's just been horrible, so it really is very satisfying that maybe something will be done for these people."