2013-06-28 / Columnists


Insurance: Know Your Rights

When Katrina struck New Orleans, the Attorney General of Louisiana hired nationally known attorney John Houghtaling to help define policyholder’s rights. His team has collected hundreds of millions of dollars for Hurricane victims. Since that time, Houghtling has traveled nationally giving speeches on how to deal with insurance companies which deny claims. The Wave asked Houghtaling to provide a guide when pursuing insurance recovery:

From Houghtaling:

Sandy Survival Guide: 1. Cash all unconditional payments. Your insurance company owes you payment for your covered loss without conditions, and cannot demand that you sign a release before paying undisputed amounts. If they say they owe you $5,000 and you believe they owe $20,000, they must pay you the $5,000 now and you can pursue them for the balance. Even if you’ve accepted funds, you are entitled to pursue the balance of underpayments providing you do not specifically sign away this right. 2. Was the source of water damage from wind or flood? It is important to get a very careful diagnosis between water damage by wind driven rain and water damage by flood. Water damage from Wind Driven Rain (WDR) and water damage from flood are covered by different policies. These policies are often sold and adjusted by the same company. Be aware of adjusters who attempt to lump damages into flood which has limitations. Business interruption insurance is often tied to WDR. Buildings are very susceptible to WDR and this damage is often overlooked either negligently or intentionally by insurers. 3. Get an independent inspection! It is essential that you get an independent inspection from a qualified expert to diagnose the amount and type of water damage you suffer. Experts can diagnose and get recovery for WDR damage that is often fully covered, and unless you are an expert, you will miss it. Do not rely upon insurance adjusters or agents (who have conflicts of interests) to advise you on the scope and amount of your covered loss. In many cases professional adjusters and attorneys will assist you on a contingent basis so that you are not at risk. 4. Know your insurance deadlines:

General Insurance companies must decide your claim within 15 days of receiving proof of a covered loss, and they must send you a check within 5 days of their decision. They often violate this law and penalties and attorney fees can be recovered in some instances if you properly document the claim process. A new law was just passed in New York which requires Insurance companies to pay a Mediator to assist in settling your claim. If your dispute is more than $1,000, you can demand and enter a mediation within 30 days of your request. If a professional properly documents your claim there is a good chance you can be paid all or part of your disputed amounts in this process. Calendar your deadline for settling your flood claims as October 29, 2013. Calendar your deadline for settling your wind claims is October 29, 2014. Important: to extend these deadlines you must initiate a civil suit to be entitled to further recovery. If you miss the formal extension of this deadline, you risk losing all unpaid insurance payments. 5. If all else fails, your agent may have Insurance: Buying insurance is not like buying a car where the benefits and shortcomings of the product are obvious and apparent. Insurance policies and how they operate are complicated. Insurance agents have a duty to provide you proper advice and guidance in the selection of your policy. If you don’t have the proper coverage, your agent may be insured for his or her mistakes.

For questions about your recovery rights you may reach out to John directly www.ghwlegal.com

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