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FEMA Extends Deadline to File Sandy Claim Review

Posted by on September 17, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on FEMA Extends Deadline to File Sandy Claim Review

FEMA Extends Deadline to File Sandy Claim Review

Within hours of the expiration of the initial deadline of 9 p.m. on September 15, 2015, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) announced that it was extending the deadline 30 days for victims of Hurricane Sandy to file a FEMA Claim Review.   In May 2015, FEMA implemented a claims review process after allegations that the National Flood Insurance Program, through various insurance companies, had vastly and systemically underpaid flood insurance claims. The review process allowed homeowners and business owners to present their claims directly to FEMA for review, and if necessary, to have an independent 3rd party issue a decision on any disputed facts related to coverage.    The deadline to file the claim was initially September 15, 2015.  With FEMA’s most recent announcement, homeowners and business owners will have another 30 days to file their claim for review or retain counsel to represent them in the filing of the claim.   About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Chiesa, Shahinian & Giantomasi’s (“CSG Law”) Disaster Recovery Claims Group. For the past three years, Chris has been representing homeowners, condominium associations and businesses with their Sandy related insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance. For more information on flood insurance and ways CSG Law can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973)...

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Chris Gerold Quoted in NJLJ Article on Moving Sandy Cases Along

Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Chris Gerold Quoted in NJLJ Article on Moving Sandy Cases Along

Chris Gerold Quoted in NJLJ Article on Moving Sandy Cases Along

Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi associate Christopher Gerold, a member of the firm’s Disaster Recovery Claims Group and author for the Flood Insurance Attorneys blog, was quoted in a New Jersey Law Journal article titled “Sandy Plaintiffs Ordered to Move Cases Along.”  The article, which was published on July 31, 2015, discusses how U.S. District Chief Judge Jerome Simandle of the District of New Jersey, at the urging of the district court’s Hurricane Sandy Litigation Committee, issued “one last’ stay, of 30 days, “during which plaintiffs must either participate in the expedited settlement process or seek to move forward with litigation.” Chris stated, “These settlements are proceeding fairly quickly. The vast majority of our cases have reached tentative settlements.  To FEMA’s credit … the cases are moving. … It’s been working out for the homeowners; it’s been working out for the court.”  He continued, “I can tell you there have been some problems in New Jersey where some cases have been taken and not litigated.” Click here to read the full...

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Chris Gerold Featured in WSHU, WNYC Article “Why Sandy Homeowners Were Left in the Lurch”

Posted by on May 14, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Chris Gerold Featured in WSHU, WNYC Article “Why Sandy Homeowners Were Left in the Lurch”

Chris Gerold Featured in WSHU, WNYC Article “Why Sandy Homeowners Were Left in the Lurch”

Christopher Gerold, an attorney in Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi’s Disaster Recovery Claims Group and author for the Flood Insurance Attorneys blog, was featured in an article titled “Why Sandy Homeowners Were Left in the Lurch.”  The report, a collaboration between WSHU and WNYC published on May 14, 2015, claims the Federal Emergency Management Agency set up a system giving insurance companies an incentive to underpay claims. Click here to read the full...

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Wolff & Samson now Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC

Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Wolff & Samson now Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC

Wolff & Samson has changed its name to Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC. The name reflects the deep bench of firm experience and its new firm-wide leadership: the addition in 2013 of former U.S. Senator and N.J. Attorney General, Jeff Chiesa; the 38 year contribution of member Armen Shahinian, one of the most respected surety, commercial crime insurance and construction litigation attorneys in the nation; and former Essex County, NJ counsel, Frank Giantomasi, who joined in 2014 after 4.5 years as a named member at Genova Burns Giantomasi and Webster.  For more information about this transition, please visit our website.    ...

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Did FEMA Encourage Engineers to Deny Foundation Damage after Hurricane Sandy?

Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Did FEMA Encourage Engineers to Deny Foundation Damage after Hurricane Sandy?

By now, anyone with foundation damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy has heard the stories of engineering companies altering reports that resulted in homeowner’s being denied coverage. But did FEMA create an environment that fostered this type of conduct? On June 27, 2013, I examined a similar question in my blog: Why Aren’t Flood Insurance Companies Covering Cracked Foundations Caused By Flood? For those of you that may have missed it, I examined FEMA’s guidance in National Flood Insurance Program Adjuster Claims Manual (NFIP Manual). Below is the section from the manual entitled Foundations: Floods can cause significant foundation damage, but so can settlement, improper construction, earth movement, tree roots, and sinkholes. Many times an insured will claim normal settlement cracks in slabs and foundations as flood related. The insured will indicate that he or she never noticed the foundation and slab damage until after the flood. This neither proves nor disproves that the damage resulted from flood. Most slab and foundation damage occurs because of a lack of moisture in the ground. The soil shrinks away from the foundation, allowing the grade beams to settle downward under the supported weight. This results in a bowing effect and cracks. Excess water in the ground exerts upward pressure on the slab floor and inward pressure on the subgrade foundation walls. This also results in cracks and displacement. Damage of this kind is considered the result of hydrostatic pressure and is not covered under the SFIP, unless there is a general condition of flooding in the area. Flooding with sufficient water movement to carry the subsoil away (scouring) from the slab or foundation walls generally leaves visible signs. Claims for foundation damage without any visible indication of scouring or land subsidence bear close scrutiny. Most foundation and slab damage that occurs without any visible signs of soil displacement may have resulted from causes other than flooding and is not covered by the SFIP. The adjuster must carefully check the perimeter and underneath the building for soil washout from velocity water flow. When finding no indication, the adjuster must resist a claim for foundation damage. The insured then has the responsibility to prove that the damage was caused by flood. Use of structural engineers must be limited to losses with visible indications of flood damage or of floodwaters’ having exacerbated preexisting damage. Almost every line of the above is troubling: “Insured will (not may) indicate that he or she never noticed the foundation and slab damage until after the flood.” – FEMA knows what all insured will say. “This neither proves nor disproves that the damage resulted from flood.” – So eyewitness testimony from the homeowner has no value – are all homeowners lying? “Most slab and foundation damage occurs because of a lack of moisture in the ground.” – What is the basis of this statement? Does this include flood ravaged areas like NY and NJ post-Sandy? “Most foundation and slab damage that occurs without any visible signs of soil displacement may have resulted from causes other than flooding and is not covered by the SFIP.” – What is basis of this statement when in the prior paragraph it states that hydrostatic pressure as the result of flooding is covered? “The adjuster must carefully check the perimeter and underneath the...

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FEMA to Review Hurricane Sandy Claims in New Jersey and New York

Posted by on March 25, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on FEMA to Review Hurricane Sandy Claims in New Jersey and New York

FEMA to Review Hurricane Sandy Claims in New Jersey and New York

After more than two years since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, FEMA has announced that it will review more than 140,000 flood insurance claims in New Jersey and New York.  FEMA is agreeing to review these claims after allegations were made and substantiated that certain engineering firms were altering reports to underpay and wrongfully deny homeowners’ claims. In November 2014, Eastern District of New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown sanctioned a flood insurance company for secretly altering engineering reports that resulted in homeowners being underpaid and wrongfully denied benefits.   Since that time, it has been determined that the altering of engineering reports was not an isolated incident and the practice was in fact widespread.  As a result, FEMA has announced that they will be reviewing all Hurricane Sandy flood insurance claims. While FEMA has not announced the process to review claims, the doorway has been opened for homeowners that were previously denied or underpaid benefits to take action.  As a result, Wolff & Samson is once again reviewing flood insurance claims, with a special focus on those claims that were denied as a result of an insurance company engineer. About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Wolff & Samson’s Disaster Recovery Claims Group. For the past two years, Chris has been representing homeowners, condominium associations and businesses with their Sandy related insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance. For more information on flood insurance and ways Wolff & Samson can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973)...

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Chris Gerold Quoted in AP Article on “Slanted Sandy Reports”

Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Chris Gerold Quoted in AP Article on “Slanted Sandy Reports”

Chris Gerold Quoted in AP Article on “Slanted Sandy Reports”

Wolff & Samson associate Christopher Gerold, a member of the firm’s Disaster Recovery Claims Group and author for the Flood Insurance Attorneys blog, was quoted in an Associated Press article titled “Insurers Dogged By Claims Of Slanted Sandy Reports.”  The article, which was published on December 27, 2014, discusses how some engineering firms assigned to determine Sandy-related structural damage to homes and businesses allegedly falsified reports to insurance companies. When asked of the validity of such claims, Chris stated, “I can’t say why it’s happening, but it’s definitely happening.”  The article was featured in such publications as the New York Times  and The Huffington Post. Click here to read the full...

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Chris Gerold Quoted in NJLJ Article on Federal Court’s Decision to Speed Up Hurricane Sandy Cases

Posted by on September 3, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Chris Gerold Quoted in NJLJ Article on Federal Court’s Decision to Speed Up Hurricane Sandy Cases

Chris Gerold Quoted in NJLJ Article on Federal Court’s Decision to Speed Up Hurricane Sandy Cases

Wolff & Samson associate Christopher Gerold, a member of the firm’s Disaster Recovery Claims Group and author for the Flood Insurance Attorneys blog, was quoted in a New Jersey Law Journal article titled “Fed. Courts Move to Speed Up Hurricane Sandy Litigaton.”  The article, which was published on August 27, 2014, discusses how the federal judiciary in New Jersey recently moved to speed up cases that are being sent for alternative dispute resolution.  When asked if most of the lawsuits are being filed because carriers are refusing to make legitimate offers settlement offers for fear of being audited if they overpay, Chris states, “If they don’t see damage, they’re not paying. There are no repercussions for underpaying.” Click here to read the full...

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Hurricane Sandy Arbitration and Mediation Training

Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Hurricane Sandy Arbitration and Mediation Training

Hurricane Sandy Arbitration and Mediation Training

On July 30, 2014, Christopher Gerold will be presenting the plaintiff’s perspective on flood matters to the District of New Jersey Sandy Litigation Committee, as well as a number of mediators and arbitrators, at the “Hurricane Sandy Arbitration and Mediation Training” hosted by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.  The day-long training will be held at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, NJ. For more information, please click...

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Does Flood Insurance Cover Oil Damage Caused by Flood?

Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Does Flood Insurance Cover Oil Damage Caused by Flood?

Does Flood Insurance Cover Oil Damage Caused by Flood?

The short answer is yes.  According to FEMA’s June 7, 2010 Bulletin w-10065a, the Standard Flood Insurance Policy covers the damage to the structure and contents up to the policy limits on residences and condominiums.  For commercial buildings, damage caused by pollutants is limited to $10,000.   Of course, there must first be a defined flood in the area, which for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy is not typically disputed.  There are, however, some limitations to the coverage.  According to the FEMA Bulletin, they include: • Damage to ground, soil or land caused by flood, oil or flood water mixed with oil is not covered. • The cost of complying with any local or State ordinance, including one that requires special removal methods for oil, is specifically excluded (certain floodplain management mitigation requirements are exceptions). This exclusion would also apply to local or state condemnations; the NFIP only pays for direct physical loss by or from flood. • For all three forms there is no coverage for testing or monitoring of pollutants unless there is a law or ordinance requiring it. • If payment is made, FEMA or the Write Your Own (“WYO”) carrier (i.e. the private insurance company that administers the policy) is automatically subrogated to the policyholder’s right to recover the payment from a responsible party. The policyholder may not give up the right of FEMA or the WYO to recover or do anything to impede recovery. If the policyholder makes a claim against an entity who caused a loss and recovers any money, the policyholder must pay FEMA or the WYO back before they may keep any of the money. While the above seems clear, there have been many homeowners and businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy that have met resistance to payment for oil damage and other pollutants from flood insurance adjusters and WYO carriers. About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Wolff & Samson’s Disaster Recovery Claims Group. Chris represents homeowners, condominium associations and businesses with their Sandy related insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance. For more information on flood insurance and ways Wolff & Samson can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973)...

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