Hurricane Sandy devastated several states along the east coast. The lawyers at our firm know the difficulties that lie ahead for those who will be filing insurance claims for the damage to their property and their lives. Because we are based in the Gulf Coast region of Florida, our law firm has been through several hurricanes and major storms over the years and we have represented numerous insurance policy-holders in their fight with insurance companies to simply enforce the policy agreements and secure payments to cover the damage.
All too often, insurance companies respond to storms like Hurricane Sandy by denying claims and making life more difficult for policy-holders just when they are most vulnerable and in need of help. We have seen this in our own backyard and — unfortunately — expect the same problems for the businesses and residents who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. We intend to use our past experience to help those who are struggling with insurers now.
Florida was one of the many states devastated in 2005 by the worst hurricane season in recorded history. Hundreds of thousands of people throughout Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Texas lost everything; some even lost their lives. In a tragedy of mammoth proportions, the only thing that many of these people had to help them get through the loss of their homes and possessions was the fact that they were insured – then their insurance companies told them differently.
Insurance Companies’ Hurricane Response
Hurricanes Wilma, Rita and Katrina were the largest and most devastating storms of the 2005 hurricane season. Even before the storms were finished pounding the gulf region, insurance companies were already scrambling to disseminate their response to any hurricane insurance claims, publicly stating that the majority of the damages were viewed to be the result of flood damage, an excluded peril for homeowners’ policies. The insurance companies viewed themselves to be removed from damage liabilities, opting to disapprove most hurricane insurance claims.
The argument revolved around determining whether damages were caused by hurricane winds or the flooding that followed. Many homeowners have complained that although their homes sustained no flood damage, their claims were lumped together and disapproved with those deemed the result of flood damage.
Insurance companies argued that they were not responsible for damages caused by flooding, and that since such damages were underwritten by the government through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), claimants should seek government policy assistance. Flood assistance offered by FEMA is primarily offered to uninsured hurricane victims. Insured homeowners are forced to wait at least 30-days before they have a chance to submit a claim to FEMA; however, even if able to receive federal aid, it would be a minimal amount required for basic repair (significantly less than an amount their contracted homeowner coverage would supply them with). Even more troubling was the news in November of 2005 that FEMA had run out of funds through which to cover flood insurance claims, leaving scores of people without any form of aid. The law offices of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz are dedicated to getting homeowners the full amount of money due them based on their insurance contract.
While various insurance companies opted to overturn some of their claim disapprovals based on increased media attention and various political pressures, the vast majority of claims remain disapproved.
A coalition of charitable organizations formed Americans for Insurance Reform (AIR) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, establishing a toll-free hotline through which the victims of hurricane insurance fraud could document their complaints against the insurance companies that turned their backs on them. The hotline has already documented tens of thousands of calls claiming everything from slow responses and misinformation campaigns to insurance companies refusing to send insurance adjusters to certain locations for the purpose of approving pending claims.
Insurance Company Profiteers
The refusal of insurance companies to live up to their contractual obligation and their continued efforts to sidestep liabilities is a shamefully disgraceful practice. This is especially true for companies refusing to approve vast numbers of hurricane insurance claims. In a National Underwriter article from January 2nd, 2006, a study conducted by the Insurance Services Office and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America noted extraordinarily high profitability for the property/casualty insurance industry for the 2005 calendar year. Over-the-course of a nine month period, net income rose 4.4% to $28.8 billion. The year-to-date combined ratio was the 2nd best 9-month ratio on record; this during the worst hurricane season in recorded history.
A country scrambles to provide disaster and humanitarian relief for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost their homes; tens of thousands of men, women and children have died; FEMA’s flood coverage allowance has been bled dry; and all the while, the hurricane insurance companies are denying claim after claim while posting a $20.4 billion surplus increase for 2005. It is no surprise that the issue has moved to the legal arena.
Hurricane Insurance Fraud – Legal Remedies
If you or a loved one has been victimized by insurance fraud related to the hurricane season of 2005, contact the law offices of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, home to some of the most experienced hurricane fraud lawyers Pensacola, Florida has to offer. The attorneys representing Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz are dedicated to providing legal assistance to those who have been victimized at the hands of hurricane insurance companies. Call toll free today at (844) 794-7402 to get information about your right to restitution.