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Hurricane Hermine: Another 30-Day Extension of the Proof of Loss Deadline

Posted by on December 2, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Hurricane Hermine: Another 30-Day Extension of the Proof of Loss Deadline

Hurricane Hermine: Another 30-Day Extension of the Proof of Loss Deadline

On November 22, 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) announced that it was extending the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”) Proof of Loss deadline an additional thirty (30) days for those in Florida that experienced flooding from Hermine between August 31, 2016 through September 9, 2016.  This means that those who have not resolved their flood insurance claim have a total of one hundred twenty (120) days from the date of their loss to submit a Proof of Loss for the total amount of damage that they suffered. A Proof of Loss is a federal form used by the policyholder to support the amount they are claiming under their policy, which must then be signed and sworn to, and submitted with supporting documentation to the flood insurance company. The filing of the Proof of Loss is a prerequisite to receiving a supplemental payment. It is also a prerequisite to a lawsuit. Failure to timely file the Proof of Loss with supporting documentation will preclude the policyholder from receiving any additional payments, even if a lawsuit is unnecessary. The deadline to file a Proof of Loss under an NFIP flood policy is typically 60 days, however due to the catastrophic nature of Hurricane Hermine, FEMA has extended the deadline. While any extension is good for policyholders, a second thirty (30) day extension is hardly that helpful.  Currently, there are hundreds of Hermine victims that have not even received an initial payment from their flood insurance company.  This means that policyholders will not have the time to evaluate whether they should be filing their own Proof of Loss (i.e. not a Proof of Loss created by the insurance adjuster; rather a Proof of Loss drafted and signed by the policyholder, their lawyer, or public adjuster, that will include all of the damages).  Just by way of example, after Hurricane Sandy FEMA extended the Proof of Loss deadline two (2) years.  If you are a victim of flooding from Hermine and have not received payment or have received a payment that is less than the damage you suffered, it is imperative that you contact a professional immediately. About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi’s (“CSG”) Disaster Recovery Claims Group. Chris represents homeowners, condominium associations and businesses with their insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance.  For more information on flood insurance and ways CSG can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973)...

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Hurricane Matthew: 60-Day Extension of the Proof of Loss Deadline

Posted by on December 1, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Hurricane Matthew: 60-Day Extension of the Proof of Loss Deadline

Hurricane Matthew: 60-Day Extension of the Proof of Loss Deadline

On November 22, 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) announced that it was extending the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”) Proof of Loss deadline an additional sixty (60) days for those in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia that experienced flooding from Hurricane Matthew.  This means that for those policyholders who have not resolved their flood insurance claim, they only have a total of one hundred twenty (120) days from the date of their loss to submit a Proof of Loss for the total amount of damage that they suffered. Just by way of example, after Hurricane Sandy FEMA extended the Proof of Loss deadline for two (2) years. A Proof of Loss is a federal form used by the policyholder to support the amount they are claiming under their policy, which must then be signed and sworn to, and submitted with supporting documentation to the flood insurance company. The filing of the Proof of Loss is a prerequisite to receiving a supplemental payment. It is also a prerequisite to a lawsuit. Failure to timely file the Proof of Loss with supporting documentation will preclude the policyholder from receiving any additional payments. The deadline to file a Proof of Loss under an NFIP flood policy is typically 60 days, however due to the catastrophic nature of Hurricane Matthew, FEMA has extended the deadline. While any extension is good for policyholders, a sixty (60) day extension is hardly that helpful.  Currently, there are hundreds of Matthew victims that have not even received an initial payment from their flood insurance company.  This means that policyholders will not have the time to evaluate whether they should be filing their own Proof of Loss (i.e. not a Proof of Loss created by the insurance adjuster; rather a Proof of Loss drafted by the policyholder (or their lawyer or public adjuster) and signed by the policyholder that will include all of the damages).  If you are a victim of flooding from Matthew and have not received payment or have received a payment that is less than the damage you suffered, it is imperative that you contact a professional immediately. About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi’s (“CSG”) Disaster Recovery Claims Group. Chris represents homeowners, condominium associations and businesses with their insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance.  For more information on flood insurance and ways CSG can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973)...

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Hurricane Matthew and Louisiana Flooding: FEMA Revises the NFIP Flood Insurance Manual

Posted by on November 4, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Hurricane Matthew and Louisiana Flooding: FEMA Revises the NFIP Flood Insurance Manual

Hurricane Matthew and Louisiana Flooding: FEMA Revises the NFIP Flood Insurance Manual

On November 3, 2016, FEMA announced revisions to the NFIP Flood Insurance Manual that became effective on October 1, 2016.  Posted for your reference here: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/127010.  The Significant revisions include the following: Guidance for policies issued or renewed in error on or after a community suspension (GR Section). Expansion of zones eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) and the Newly Mapped procedure to include A99 and AR Zones that meet the PRP loss history requirements (GR, RATE, PRP, and Newly Mapped Sections). Policy effective date clarifications (GR Section). Clarified guidance for duplicate coverage (GR, PRP, and Newly Mapped Sections). Revised Emergency Program building coverage limits for non-residential buildings in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and U.S. Virgin Islands (RATE Section). Further guidance for policies eligible for Pre-FIRM subsidized rates, continuous coverage grandfathering, or the Newly Mapped procedure that lapse and are reinstated (RATE, CONDO, and Newly Mapped Sections). Revised instruction regarding the use of the current NAVD datum (LFG Section). Reformatted Elevation Certificate and Instructions (CERT Section). Additional guidance for the conversion of a standard-rated policy to a PRP or Newly-Mapped-rated policy due to misrating (PRP, Newly Mapped, and END Sections). Revised endorsement refund rules and administrative cancel/rewrite procedures to allow for rate adjustment up to a maximum of 5 policy years (END and CN Sections). Revised documentation requirements and sample verification letter for cancellation reasons involving a lender release (CN Section). Expanded use of Cancellation Reason 9 to allow cancellation due to the lender’s determination that coverage is no longer required for certain detached structures (CN Section). Revised use of Cancellation Reason 25 to address HFIAA Section 28 reunderwriting (CN Section). Updates to the Community Rating System Eligible Communities list (CRS Section). Updates to the Definitions, Table of Contents, and Index. About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi’s (“CSG”) Disaster Recovery Claims Group. Chris represents homeowners, condominium associations and businesses with their insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance.  For more information on flood insurance and ways CSG can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973)...

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Hurricane Hermine: Extension of the Proof of Loss Deadline

Posted by on October 27, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Hurricane Hermine: Extension of the Proof of Loss Deadline

Hurricane Hermine: Extension of the Proof of Loss Deadline

For victims of Hurricane Hermine in Florida still fighting with their flood insurance carriers for additional payments the deadline to file a Proof of Loss is quickly approaching.  Hurricane Hermine hit Florida on September 2, 2016.  On October 26, 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) announced that it was extending the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”) Proof of Loss deadline an additional thirty (30) days for those in Florida that experienced flooding from Hermine between August 31, 2016 through September 9, 2016.  This means that those who have not resolved their flood insurance claim only have a total of ninety (90) days from the date of their loss to submit a Proof of Loss for the total amount of damage that they suffered. A Proof of Loss is a federal form used by the policyholder to support the amount they are claiming under their policy, which must then be signed and sworn to, and submitted with supporting documentation to the flood insurance company. The filing of the Proof of Loss is a prerequisite to receiving a supplemental payment. It is also a prerequisite to a lawsuit. Failure to timely file the Proof of Loss with supporting documentation will preclude the policyholder from receiving any additional payments, even if a lawsuit is unnecessary. The deadline to file a Proof of Loss under an NFIP flood policy is typically 60 days, however due to the catastrophic nature of Hurricane Hermine, FEMA has extended the deadline. While any extension is good for policyholders, a thirty (30) day extension is hardly helpful.  Currently, there are hundreds of Hermine victims that have not even received an initial payment from their flood insurance company.  This means that policyholders will not have the time to evaluate whether they should be filing their own Proof of Loss (i.e. not a Proof of Loss created by the insurance adjuster; rather a Proof of Loss drafted and signed by the policyholder, their lawyer, or public adjuster, that will include all of the damages).  Just by way of example, after Hurricane Sandy FEMA extended the Proof of Loss deadline two (2) years.  If you are a victim of flooding from Hermine and have not received payment or have received a payment that is less than the damage you suffered, it is imperative that you contact a professional immediately. About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi’s (“CSG”) Disaster Recovery Claims Group. Chris represents homeowners, condominium associations and businesses with their insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance.  For more information on flood insurance and ways CSG can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973)...

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Hurricane Matthew and Louisiana Flooding: Flood Insurance’s Earth Movement Exclusion

Posted by on October 18, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Hurricane Matthew and Louisiana Flooding: Flood Insurance’s Earth Movement Exclusion

Hurricane Matthew and Louisiana Flooding: Flood Insurance’s Earth Movement Exclusion

As Hurricane Sandy litigation winds down in New Jersey and New York, thousands of new flood insurance claims have been filed in in Louisiana, as a result of the catastrophic rains, and Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia as a result of Hurricane Matthew.  Inevitably homeowners and policyholders will begin to receive flood insurance checks.  Many of the checks will be less than expected.  One of the primary reasons that flood insurance checks are less than expected are due to denials by flood insurance companies for the Earth Movement Exclusion. The Standard Flood Insurance Policy (“SFIP”) excludes certain losses from coverage. One of the exclusions is “loss to property caused directly by earth movement even if the earth movement is caused by flood.” 44 C.F.R. Pt. 61, App. A(1), Art. V(C).  Earth movement includes earthquakes, landslides, land subsidence, sinkholes, destabilization or movement of land that results from accumulation of water in subsurface land area, and gradual erosion. Id.  This exclusion has been recognized by various courts throughout the country, but in many claims this exclusion has been perverted by flood insurance companies to deny policyholders. The earth movement exclusion has one exception which is covered by the SFIP: “losses from mudflow and land subsidence as a result of erosion that are specifically covered under our definition of flood (see II.A.1.c. and II.A.2.).” 44 C.F.R. Pt. 61, App. A(1), Art. V(C). In other words, the SFIP does not insure a loss from earth movement unless the earth movement results from mudslide or flood-related erosion. Plywood Prop. Assocs., 928 F. Supp. at 505–06. On October 11, 2016, in an unpublished opinion in Elwell v. Selective Insurance Company, Judge Kugler, U.S.D.J., District of New Jersey, denied a flood insurance company’s summary judgment motion based on the earth movement exclusion.  The Court found that a reasonable factfinder could conclude Plaintiffs’ property sustained losses that resulted from flood-related erosion. The SFIP defines erosion as “[c]ollapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined in A.1.a. above.” Article II(A)(2).  Judge Kugler found that based on a plain reading of Article II(A)(2), a plaintiff need show four elements to demonstrate flood-related erosion: collapse or subsidence of land; the land is along the shore of a lake or similar body of water; the collapse or subsidence resulted from erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels; and the waves or currents resulted in a flood as defined in Article II(A)(1)(a). Other circuits have considered these factors when evaluating whether a loss resulted from flood-related erosion, even if those courts did not enunciate a specific test. See Armstrong v. Fid. Nat. Prop. & Cas. Co., No. Civ. G-10-202, 2014 WL 791377, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 25, 2014) (requiring land be along the shore of a body of water); Chesapeake Ship Propeller Co. v. Stickney, 820 F. Supp. 995, 999–1001 (E.D. Va. 1993) (requiring land be on the shore of a body of water and occurrence of a flood); McAlister v. Dir., Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, 544 F. Supp. 15, 20 Vt. 1982) (requiring river to have risen...

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Hurricane Matthew: How Is FEMA Involved with My Flood Insurance?

Posted by on October 11, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Hurricane Matthew: How Is FEMA Involved with My Flood Insurance?

Hurricane Matthew: How Is FEMA Involved with My Flood Insurance?

If this is the first time you have had to contact your flood insurance company about a loss, it can be confusing to understand why or how FEMA has anything to do with your flood insurance.  The reason that FEMA is involved with flood insurance is that FEMA is charged with administering the National Flood Insurance Program.  In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, many insurance companies stopped writing flood insurance policies because they were losing money on the policies.  The flood damages were just too widespread and catastrophic for insurance companies to insure.  Because people needed flood insurance to protect their property, the federal government stepped in and passed legislation that created the National Flood Insurance Program. The National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”) has two programs: the NFIP direct program and the “Write Your Own” (“WYO”) program.  Both programs issue Standard Flood Insurance Policies (“SFIPs”), collect premiums, handle and adjust claims, and issue payments to insured.  The same identical SFIPs are issued under both programs.  Under the direct program, the issuance, handlings and payment of claims is handled directly by the federal government. The WYO program was started in 1983.  It allows private insurance companies to issue and service federally backed SFIPs under their own names, collect premiums, and pay claims.   They are reimbursed by FEMA for these services. The flood policy is backed by the federal government rather than the private insurance company and claims and expenses are paid from U.S. Treasury funds.  The WYO program now accounts for approximately ninety-percent (90%) of all flood insurance policies.  Most of the well-known property and casualty companies participate in the WYO program. Private flood insurance policies and excess flood insurance policies still exist, but are not subject to FEMA administration or rules, and are only subject to the terms set forth in the policy between the insurance company and the policyholder. About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi’s (“CSG”) Disaster Recovery Claims Group. Chris represents homeowners, condominium associations and businesses with their insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance.  For more information on flood insurance and ways CSG can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973)...

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Hurricane Matthew: Filing a Flood Insurance Claim

Posted by on October 10, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Hurricane Matthew: Filing a Flood Insurance Claim

Hurricane Matthew: Filing a Flood Insurance Claim

If you have experienced a flood as a result of Hurricane Matthew, according to FEMA’s website, you can file your flood insurance claim by following these three steps. STEP ONE: NOTIFY YOUR INSURER TO START THE CLAIMS PROCESS After experiencing a flood, contact your agent or insurance company to file a claim. Make sure you have the following information handy: The name of your insurance company Your policy number A telephone and/or email address where you can be reached at all times An adjuster should contact you within a few days of filing your claim. If you do not hear from an adjuster, please contact your insurance agent or company again. Find your company’s toll-free phone number: http://www.nfipiservice.com/Claims_TollFree/Toll-Free%20Number%20by%20WYO.pdf STEP TWO: DOCUMENT THE DAMAGE Separate damaged from undamaged property. Your adjuster will need evidence of the damage to your home and possessions to prepare your repair estimate. Take photographs of all of the damaged property, including discarded objects, structural damage, and standing floodwater levels. Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their date of purchase, value, and receipts, if possible. Officials may require disposal of damaged items so, if possible, place flooded items outside of the home. STEP THREE: COMPLETE A PROOF OF LOSS TO SUPPORT YOUR CLAIM The adjuster the insurance company assigns you will assist you in preparing a Proof of Loss (which is your sworn statement of the amount you are claiming including necessary supporting documentation) for your official claim for damages. You’ll need to file your Proof of Loss with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood (unless it is extended, which is common during mass catastrophe events). You’ll receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has your complete, accurate, and signed Proof of Loss.  If you disagree with the insurance adjuster about the value of the loss, it is the responsibility of the policyholder to complete and submit a Proof of Loss for the full amount, along with supporting documentation. About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi’s (“CSG”) Disaster Recovery Claims Group. Chris represents homeowners, condominium associations and businesses with their insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance.  For more information on flood insurance and ways CSG can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973)...

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Louisiana Flooding: How is FEMA involved with My Flood Insurance?

Posted by on August 26, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Louisiana Flooding: How is FEMA involved with My Flood Insurance?

Louisiana Flooding: How is FEMA involved with My Flood Insurance?

If this is the first time you have had to contact your flood insurance company about a loss, it can be confusing to understand why or how FEMA has anything to do with your flood insurance.  The reason that FEMA is involved with flood insurance is that FEMA is charged with administering the National Flood Insurance Program.  In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, many insurance companies stopped writing flood insurance policies because they were losing money on the policies.  The flood damages were just too widespread and catastrophic for insurance companies to insure.  Because people needed flood insurance to protect their property, the federal government stepped in and passed legislation that created the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”). The National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”) has two programs: the NFIP direct program and the “Write Your Own” (“WYO”) program.  Both programs issue Standard Flood Insurance Policies (“SFIPs”), collect premiums, handle and adjust claims, and issue payments to insured.  The same identical SFIPs are issued under both programs.  Under the direct program, the issuance, handlings and payment of claims is handled directly by the federal government. The WYO program was started in 1983.  It allows private insurance companies to issue and service federally backed SFIPs under their own names, collect premiums, and pay claims.   They are reimbursed by FEMA for these services. The flood policy is backed by the federal government rather than the private insurance company and claims and expenses are paid from U.S. Treasury funds.  The WYO program now accounts for approximately ninety-percent (90%) of all flood insurance policies.  Most of the well-known property and casualty companies participate in the WYO program. Private flood insurance policies and excess flood insurance policies still exist, but are not subject to FEMA administration or rules, and are only subject to the terms set forth in the policy between the insurance company and the...

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Louisiana Flooding: Requirements After a Loss and the Proof of Loss

Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Louisiana Flooding: Requirements After a Loss and the Proof of Loss

Louisiana Flooding: Requirements After a Loss and the Proof of Loss

Under a National Flood Insurance Program policy, in the event of a flood loss to an insured’s property the insured is required under their policy to comply with certain conditions and requirements,  including: giving prompt notice to the flood carrier, separating damaged and undamaged property for examination; and, preparing an inventory of damaged property which includes the quantity, description, actual cash value, and amount of the loss. Once notification of a flood loss is given to the insurance carrier, the insurance carrier will assign an adjuster to investigate the claim as courtesy to the insured.   In the event of a non-catastrophic flood situation, within sixty (60) days after the loss, the insured is required to submit a Proof of Loss.  The Proof of Loss is the insured’s official claim for damages.  (Currently, the time period to file a proof of loss for a loss from the 2016 Louisiana flood remains at 60 days from the date of the loss.  I anticipate an extension will be given by FEMA, however right now it remains 60 days.) The Proof of Loss must be signed and sworn to, which includes the following information: the date and time of loss; a brief explanation of how the loss happened; the interests of all parties in the damaged property; details of any other insurance covering the property; changes in title or occupancy during the term of the policy; specifications of damaged buildings and detailed repair estimates, names or mortgagees or anyone else having a claim against the property; details about the occupancy of the structure at the time of the loss; and, an inventory of damaged personal property.  The Proof of Loss is a single page document published by the National Flood Insurance Program and FEMA. The insurance adjuster that the carrier hires to investigate the flood loss may furnish the insured with a Proof of Loss form, and may help the insured complete it.  The insurance adjuster will also draft an estimate to support the Proof of Loss that he completes.  However, this is a matter of courtesy only, and the insured must still send the insurance carrier the Proof of Loss within sixty (60) days after the loss even if the adjuster does not furnish the form or help the insured to complete it. The policy holder must also submit a Proof of Loss within the required time period if he/she disagrees with the insurance adjusters estimate and Proof of Loss (i.e. the policyholder believes that he/she is being underpaid).  This is extremely important because the filing of a Proof of Loss is a pre-requisite to a lawsuit and failure to file a Proof of Loss for the damages being denied by the insurance carrier, may preclude any additional recovery. A Proof of Loss should be submitted with enough supporting documentation for the insurance company to evaluate the merits of the claim.  Albeit a contractor’s estimate, a public adjuster’s estimate, engineering report, photos, or the policyholder’s own judgment of the value of the loss, the determination will turn on the fact of whether the supporting documentation that was submitted as part of the Proof of Loss gave the carrier sufficient information to evaluate the merits of the claim.  The more documentation; the...

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Louisiana Flooding: Debris Removal

Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Louisiana Flooding: Debris Removal

Louisiana Flooding: Debris Removal

In what FEMA has been calling the 2016 Mid-Summer Severe Storms (i.e. the catastrophic flooding in Louisiana), FEMA (the federal agency charged with administering the National Flood Insurance Program) has issued guidance on the issue of debris removal.   According to FEMA, damaged items should be removed from the insured building for health and/or safety reasons and to mitigate damage. In those instances where the items have been removed from the insured building and deemed debris, the policyholder (i.e. homeowner) is required to substantiate their loss.  See link to FEMA’s bulletin: http://www.nfipiservice.com/Stakeholder/pdf/bulletin/w-16061.pdf The Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) requires that the policyholder separate damaged from undamaged property putting it in the best possible order so the adjuster may examine it. It is the policyholder’s duty to perform the separation described above and prepare an inventory of damaged property including quantity, description, and the total amount of loss claimed. Any bills, receipts, photographs of damages, and related documents should be attached to the inventory. If building and/or contents flood damaged property is removed before the adjuster is able to examine it, according to FEMA, the policyholder must photograph the items and prepare the aforementioned inventory.  See “Documenting Your Flood Damage Claim with Photographs”: http://www.floodinsuranceattorneys.com/documenting-your-flood-damage-claim-with-photographs/ To minimize potential documentation issues, if possible, the policyholder should retain for the adjuster, samples or swatches of carpeting, wallpaper, furniture upholstery, window treatments, and other items where the type and quality of material will impact the amount payable on the claim. Photographs should also include groups of items such as clothing, kitchen items, furniture, etc. These items, along with the policyholder’s written inventory of damaged items, should be given proper consideration by the insurance company.  And if they are not, it will go a long way in any potential...

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