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Archive for the tag 'insurance'
Legislation aimed at reducing auto insurance fraud in New York State passed the Senate on Monday, bringing the bill which allows insurance companies to retroactively cancel the policies of fraudsters one step closer to law.
The Senate bill was sponsored by State Senator Marty Golden, who describes it in this press release:
Today the New York State Senate passed S1959A, sponsored by Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), which allows insurance companies to retroactively cancel policies taken out by people who commit auto fraud. These criminals often take out policies and pay for them with bad checks or stolen credit cards just before they stage accidents. Under current law, insurance companies cannot cancel the policy and policyholders wind up paying for it through higher premiums. This bill would take that burden off honest consumers and therefore lower the insurance rates.
“Auto insurance fraud is costing New Yorkers millions of dollars, and it’s time that fair and honest members of our community stop paying for the crimes of others,” stated Senator Golden. “This legislation will give insurance companies the right to revoke insurance policies for those who try to game the system.”
This measure would bring New York in line with the other large no-fault states and remove any incentives for staged accidents. In fact, only seven other states (AZ, CO, KS, ME, MD, NC and SD) do not allow for retroactive cancellation. Innocent victims of uninsured drivers would be covered under their own policy or the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation.
The bill, which you can read here, now moves onto the Democratic-led Assembly, where it has support from a number of Democrats, including local Assembly members Steven Cymbrowitz and Dov Hikind.
Previous versions of this bill – and two others passed by the Senate to combat auto fraud – died in the Assembly.
Auto fraud continues to be an ongoing issue in Southern Brooklyn. The longest-running and largest auto insurance scam ring in history ended in April 2012, when authorities busted 36 individuals – many of them Southern Brooklyn residents – using anti-Mafia RICO laws. The individuals were accused of exploiting New York’s “no-fault” insurance law, which allows drives and passengers to obtain up to $50,000 for accidents injuries regardless of fault.
Prior to that, another ring was busted in Brooklyn, leading to the arrest of 16 people for allegedly ripping off companies for $400,000 between 2009 and 2011.
The following is an unedited press release from the offices of Senator Charles Schumer:
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on FEMA to issue a clear and immediate ruling that extends the statute of limitations for Sandy victims to challenge their insurance companies in court for shortchanging them on an award amount. Under FEMA’s current guidelines, families have only one year from the date they received the “first” written “denial,” or insufficient check, to challenge the amount in court. That day is rapidly approaching, as some homeowners received their first response within months of the storm. In many cases, those homeowners are still submitting documentation and proof to insurance companies. FEMA’s current policy ensures many homeowners lose the option to take civil action even before they are done negotiating with the insurance companies. Schumer was joined on his letter by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Schumer said FEMA should not start the clock on the one-year statute of limitations period to pursue civil action until all administrative appeals have been completed and the homeowner has received a final determination the insurer. That would have the effect of giving sandy victims an additional 18 months or more to hold accountable insurance companies. This is particularly important because of how complex the rebuilding process has been – a homeowners needs are constantly changing, and insurance companies have shown themselves reluctant to provide a fair amount.
“This is about fairness, due process and common sense. Beginning the clock at the first denial of a claim – instead of the final denial – makes no sense, and necessarily robs many aggrieved homeowners from holding accountable insurance companies that have shortchanged them on what they are owed – and need – to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy,” said Schumer. “FEMA should clarify the deadline so that Sandy victims can finish negotiating their claims before they are forced into court, where they will likely get less money and incur greater expenses. This is a win-win that will allow homeowners to better access the money they are owed without forcing them to file premature and unnecessary court claims.”
“Sandy-impacted homeowners who suffered damages from the storm are slowly piecing their lives back together and deserve access to fair policies that make all resources available,” said Gillibrand. “Struggling families must be given the opportunity to fully exhaust their appeals without risking their right to file suit. I urge FEMA to heed our call to assist New Yorkers through this process.”
“The disaster relief clinic at Touro Law Center has been on the front lines helping Superstorm Sandy victims for the past year – and we know firsthand how much help and assistance is still needed,” said Touro Law Center Dean Patricia Salkin. “Touro Law Center thanks Senator Schumer for taking action so that we make sure thousands of Sandy victims won’t be victimized again by complicated deadlines.”
“The one-year deadline to file suit is connected with the process for presenting a claim under the flood policy, which FEMA extended to 18 months in order to protect thousands of Sandy-affected households. This clarification will provide everyone with more time to find solutions and keep many out of federal court,” said Benjamin Rajotte, Director of the Disaster Law Clinic at Touro Law.
FEMA’s policy on the statute of limitations is particularly puzzling because FEMA granted Sandy-affected households an extension until April 29, 2014 to submit supporting documents to their insurance companies – such documents are called “proof of loss.” Effectively the proof of loss allows households to present their flood insurance claims for the full amount they believe is owed. This extension was designed to address the widespread and catastrophic losses that thousands of households have suffered, combined with the unprecedented volume of claims handling and demand for experts to value these losses. This proof of loss extension was particularly important because many families are still trying to assess how much their insurance companies owe them, including families who are still displaced as a result of the storm.
But while the proof of loss deadline as extended, FEMA has not done the same for the statute of limitations of taking insurance companies to court if, in the end, the insurance check is insufficient. This is because FEMA appears to maintain that the one-year limitations period in which to file suit starts from the “first” written “denial” from the insurer, and it has since indicated that this denial may be based exclusively on the report made by the insurer’s own insurance adjuster without any documentation from the household. This could create a situation where you are still allowed to submit evidence, but not allowed to sue in a court if the claim doesn’t come back at a sufficient amount.
“In many cases, these so-called first denials are made by poorly trained adjusters, who work for the insurance companies and get little-to-no input from impacted homeowners. They put the homeowner behind the eight-ball just as they are struggling to cope with massive damage, trying to get their lives back together – and understating a very complicated flood insurance process. It is inherently unfair and we need to rectify that,” said Schumer.
FEMA has made this argument in previous disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. Nowhere in the policy, nor in the controlling statute, nor in the regulation does it say that the period to file suit starts from the “first” denial on a claim that has not even been fully presented by the household through the policy’s required proof of loss process. This is very problematic in Sandy cases which involve extensive property loss, forcing homeowners to document various aspects of their storm-damaged homes and belongings with numerous contractors and insurance adjusters at multiple points in time. A “denial” at any one point in time, before households even submit all of their paperwork, starts the clock. There is an obvious problem if the one-year deadline to file suit expires before the time necessary to fully present the claim. This interpretation deprives policyholders of the indemnification they are due.
The Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association will be meeting this evening, October 7, at 8:00 p.m. at Public School 195, 131 Irwin Street in Manhattan Beach.
The meeting will feature Stuart Fries, vice president of Garber, Atlas, and Fries Insurance Company, who will give a lengthy presentation about the ins and outs of flood insurance.
It will cover:
- Why do you need flood insurance?
- Will you be getting a rate increase?
- Do you need an elevation certification?
Fries added that he hopes to clear up some confusion about the FEMA flood maps in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
“I will have a huge CURRENT flood map of this area, plus some smaller Maps, of what to expect with the new FEMA Flood Maps which are supposed to arrive before end of 2014,” Fries wrote to Sheepshead Bites.
Fries will also take questions from the audience, and the meeting is open to everyone from all communities.
To learn more, call (917) 747-5863.
When boats in Southern Brooklyn get smashed, a certain captain comes to the rescue. The captain in question is Jack Schachner, and he and his lucrative White Cap Marine and Salvage business is the subject of a fascinating report by the New York Times report.
Captain Jack’s activities mainly revolves around the business of salvaging wrecked boats in the waters off Southern Brooklyn, a difficult and dangerous job as the Times details:
Capt. Jack Schachner strained his eyes as the waves crashed over the rail of his towboat. It was a moonless night in Jamaica Bay and a storm had pitched the black water, making the conditions even more dangerous than usual as he sped along a rocky stretch of shoreline in pursuit of his bounty.
And suddenly there it was, illuminated by the flashing orange lights from his boat: a 53-foot fishing vessel listing perilously and quickly taking water from a large hole torn across its hull. The accident had occurred in the dark, prompting a Fire Department rescue of four passengers thrown into the water and leaving the boat dangerously situated on a rock jetty.
Captain Schachner’s job was to tow the boat somewhere safer, where it could be left until he could orchestrate its removal. For an entire night, he worked alone, his boat groaning angrily as the waves slammed it against the damaged vessel. Despite the peril, the thought of leaving never surfaced in his mind, he said. His reward for this salvage, he estimated, would be at least $30,000.
Schachner, who runs the business with his brother, Captain Bernie Schachner, and their first mate Frank Donnelly, sees a lot of action in the summer months when people hit the waters on jet skis, motorboats and yachts, often times getting into dangerous situations. Listening to his radio for any calls of distress, Schachner described just when to head out for a rescue.
“I can tell when there’s a sense of distress, of panic in someone’s voice, even from sleep, and when I get that sense, I go,” Schachner told the Times.
The Times explained how Schachner brings down big bucks for his actions:
He needs the radios because speed is essential in his business. Maritime salvage laws, created more than a century ago to give mariners incentive to assist a vessel in peril, state that the rescuer is entitled to a salvage reward. The reward, typically paid by insurance companies, is based on a percentage of the vessel’s value and cargo, and on the dangers faced during the salvage. The greater the danger, the higher the reward.
For the brothers, two Navy veterans with a love of adventure and “saltwater running through our veins,” salvaging seemed a natural calling, Jack Schachner said.
The report, which you can read in full by clicking here, is a fascinating portrait of the adventurous stories and humorous anecdotes that Schachner and his crew have faced over the years working as a salvage company. Check it out.
Yes, it’s last minute, but we’re passing it along anyway…
State Assembly Insurance Committee Chair Kevin A. Cahill will be holding a roundtable today at 2:00 p.m. at the Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton – Manhattan Beach (3300 Coney Island Avenue) to discuss the claims settlement practices of insurers related to Superstorm Sandy. He will be joined by Assemblymembers Steven Cymbrowitz, Helene Weinstein and Alec Brook-Krasny.
Cahill has been making the rounds to Sandy-afflicted areas to discuss the topic, and it may result in proposed legislative changes in the case of future disasters.
“The damage caused by Sandy left hundreds of thousands of homes and commercial properties without power and caused an extraordinary amount of property damage,” said Cahill. “This roundtable will help us determine if insurance companies adequately responded to claims from families and businesses that rely on their insurance policies to recover from such a disaster.”
The committee will also hear testimony from representatives of the Department of Financial Services, insurance agents and brokers, consumers, adjusters and major insurance companies.
Still waiting for your Superstorm Sandy insurance check? It might be at the bank. Apparently, major banks have about $41 million worth of Sandy insurance money, but aren’t releasing any of it until they are sure that the money will be spent on repairs, according to a report in the New York Daily News.
The bank taking the most time in issuing insurance money is Selene Finance of Texas. They haven’t issued 71 percent of their Sandy insurance checks. Other offending banks making the list are Capital One, Nationstar, Astoria Federal and Select Portfolio.
Homeowners looking for an ally in this fight to against the delinquent banks have a big one in Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“Some banks have continued to lag especially far behind the rest, and it’s well past time for them to pick up the pace,” Governor Cuomo said, according to the Daily News.
The biggest banks (Citi, Chase, Bank of America) have done a decent job of paying out the much needed insurance money, paying out 89 percent of what is owed.
Here is a list of the 10 slowest banks and how much money they are still holding back.
1. Selene Finance, $1.87 million (71%)
2. Select Portfolio, $4.86 million (56%)
3. Astoria Federal, $3.67 million (48%)
4. Capital One, $3.7 million (45%)
5. Nationstar Mortgage, $6 million (44%)
6. Flagstar, $2.9 million (42%)
7. Specialized Loan, $1.37 million (41%)
8. OneWest Bank, $14.3 million (39%)
9. Sun Trust Mortgage, $712,884 (39%)
10. Mid-Island Mortgage, $1.25 million (38%)
Do you use any of these banks and are still waiting for your insurance check to be approved ? Let us know about it.
State Senator Marty Golden has scheduled two visits of the New York State Department of Financial Services’ Insurance Response Unit to aid victims in his district who were affected by Superstorm Sandy.
- Today, March 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the NYS Department of Financial Services Mobile Command Center will be in Sheepshead Bay, on the corner of Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue.
- Tomorrow, March 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the Mobile Command Center will be outside the Gerritsen Beach Public Library, 2808 Gerritsen Avenue.
Staff will be available to assist homeowners and business owners with the following:
- City, state and federal relief programs and how to get help
- Questions about the insurance claims process in New York
- Seeking resolution on your claims with your insurer or bank
- Filing an official complaint against an insurer or bank
Anyone who can’t visit the Mobile Command Center in person can file complaints through the New York State Disaster Relief website, www.nyinsure.ny.gov or by calling the Disaster Relief Hotline, (800) 339-1759, Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm.
Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein put forward a bill that would protect people from unfair insurance practices administered during a time when the governor has declared a disaster emergency, according to a report by Insurance Journal.
The language of the bill (A05780) states that it “would establish a private right of action for the insured for unfair insurance settlement practices when the claim relates to loss or injury in an area where the governor has declared a disaster emergency.”
The new legislation doesn’t prevent insurance companies from denying claims. Rather, it reintroduces an element of common sense and fairness in situations where disaster victims have lost everything and are left with the maddening process of fighting insurance companies over the technicalities of what they are owed.
The “private right of action” would grant insureds the power to fight their insurance companies over blatantly unfair practices in the face of a storm’s devastation.
The extra cherry on the bill allows for people to seek punitive damages from insurance companies that screw over their customers the next time a huge disaster like Superstorm Sandy comes and wipes them out.
Congressmen Michael Grimm and Gregory Meeks were joined by colleagues Charles Rangel, Jerrold Nadler and Eliot Engle to introduce the Flood Victim Premium Relief Act 2013 (H.R. 960), a bill which aims to delay flood insurance hikes for Superstorm Sandy victims, according to a report by SI Live.
In a release issued by Congressman Grimm, the bill extends “the premium increase timeline for primary residences in areas that have been declared a federal disaster area after July 6, 2012 from 5 years to 8 years.”
Grimm expressed the importance this bill will play in helping homeowners make it through these tough times.
“If we allow flood premiums to increase on their current schedule, based on the new maps, homeowners are going to be in an impossible position of trying to both pay their mortgage as well as increased flood premiums that may rise over $10,000 in some cases. This situation will almost certainly lead to a surge in defaults and foreclosures and cost the taxpayers vast sums via the government’s exposure to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA. Allowing an extra three years to increase premiums will give both homeowners and localities time make smart, long term flood mitigation and rebuilding plans.”
The bill, a bipartisan effort, has received support from Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.