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Hurricane Sandy Flood Insurance Deadlines: New Jersey Governor Requests More Time

Hurricane Sandy Flood Insurance Deadlines: New Jersey Governor Requests More Time

For thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York still dealing with flood insurance claims, the deadline to file a Proof of Loss is April 28, 2014.  According to reports, however, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has told the federal government that New Jersey residents whose homes were damaged during Hurricane Sandy need more time.  The governor last week sent a letter to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) requesting another six-month extension to October 28, 2014.  According to reports, “[t]his additional extension is clearly justified by the extensive destruction caused by Sandy’s flooding and the ongoing hardships being endured by those devastated by Sandy,” Christie wrote in the letter.

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 a lawsuit, and failure to timely file the Proof of Loss with supporting documentation may also preclude the policyholder from receiving any additional payments, even if a lawsuit is unnecessary.

According to reports, Governor Christie also requested FEMA not start the one-year timeline for filing litigation about a claim until the agency denies or partially disallows a claim based on the last filed Proof of Loss.   Currently, according to the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (“SFIP”), an insured has one year from the date of a denial of all or any part of their claim to initiate a lawsuit seeking additional amounts under their SFIP. While any amounts claimed and at issue in a lawsuit must be supported by a timely and complete Proof of Loss meeting the requirements of the SFIP, it is FEMA’s position that the extension of the deadline to submit a Proof of Loss does not alter the one year deadline from a denial for initiating a lawsuit. Further, it is FEMA’s position that the one-year statute of limitations period begins from the date of the letter that first denies any part of the claim (an interpretation of the policy that we strongly oppose and has been determined not to apply by certain federal judges). Based on this logic, some insured’s statute of limitations may have expired already.

While the additional extension of both the Proof of Loss deadline and the deadline to file a lawsuit would certainly help victims of Sandy, until FEMA grants such an extension, policyholders and victims should act immediately to comply with the current deadlines.

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) 530-2061.