• Governors of Three States Relax the Rules to Save the Day
  • December 13, 2012 | Authors: Frederick J. Pomerantz; David A. Rose; Stacey B. Rowland; Sandy M. Smith
  • Law Firms: Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP - New York Office ; Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP - Stamford Office ; Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP - Albany Office
  • New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have taken similar, yet independent, actions to assist residents with a multitude of claims issues in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. These actions have taken the form of Executive Orders, Insurance Bulletins, Regulations and Circular Letters, and the insurance departments of each of these states have established web-based information centers as a “one-stop” shop for consumers and the insurance industry needing guidance on a variety of matters.

    • All three states have determined that it is impermissible for insurers to apply hurricane deductibles to claims filed due to the storm. Additionally, each state has implemented some mechanism to prevent policies from lapsing, terminating or being cancelled - such as extending grace periods, imposing moratoriums or ordering insurers to exercise appropriate judgment in taking any such action in light of the circumstances.
    • Likewise, each state has relaxed licensure requirements for insurance adjusters to permit out-of-state adjusters to address in-state claims. Both New York and New Jersey require a state-licensed adjuster to supervise the temporary adjuster but Connecticut does not.
    • In addition, each state has set up a claims reporting process, or “data calls” system, to enable regulators to monitor the number and scope of storm-related claims.
    • Finally, each state has provided insureds with instructions on how best to submit claims. Efforts range from encouraging insureds to take photos and video of damage to advising on the retention of records of repairs.

    While each of these states has instituted a similar philosophy in terms of the urgent need for easing the regulatory restraints typically found in the claims process, there are differences in the scope and extent of the actions taken to alleviate these limitations. For example:

    • New York has taken the position that insurers must rely on documentation provided by the homeowner, rather than that of an adjuster, where the homeowner determines that an immediate cleanup of debris is necessary to protect health and safety or prevent further damage to property.
    • New Jersey has permitted insurers to make claims payments by prepaid debit cards, electronic transfers or other payment methods that are not otherwise authorized under New Jersey law.
    • Connecticut has provided insurers with a checklist of actions they must take upon receipt of a notice of claim.

    Finally, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have pledged to work together to secure federal aid for the afflicted region.