(Editors Note: Adjusters and public adjusters should be careful not to practice law. Chip Merlin is going to write in general about New Jersey insurance law as it applies to Hurricane Sandy insurance claims. Claimants seeking specific advice or opinions should obtain those from a New Jersey licensed attorney.)
Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore, and insurance claim denials are causing second catastrophes for business and homeowners who depended on their property insurance coverage to soften Hurricane Sandy’s impact.
Many Hurricane Sandy insurance claim denials will be based on alleged causes of loss which insurance companies argue are excluded under their policies. Starting on Monday, I will write a number of posts about Hurricane Sandy claim denials based on causation exclusions in New Jersey.
I anticipate many of these Hurricane Sandy posts will be somewhat similar to prior posts involving other hurricanes, but New Jersey has a somewhat unique method of insurance contract interpretation that is more consumer friendly than other jurisdictions. Hurricane Sandy victims of should not accept an insurer’s denial of benefits without seeking a second opinion.
In Anticoncurrent Causation Clause Explained in Relation to Hurricane Losses, I noted an excerpt from a law review article I authored:1
. . .This shows that the true problem at the heart of the Katrina litigation remains. Insurers are using their vast resources to evade their responsibilities under the policies they wrote. The individual policyholder who has lost everything in a catastrophe is not a formidable opponent for an insurer. Most often, the policyholder is in a state of financial and emotional crisis.
Policyholders have a right to expect that the insurance they purchased, often for tens of thousands of dollars over the years, will provide the benefits they bought. . . .
In the end, Corban was a victory for policyholders, but a hollow victory because it came far too late for most Katrina victims to benefit from it. During the four years from the time Katrina obliterated the gulf coast to the date Corban was released, those who lost everything were further victimized by insurers that manipulated words or phrases in complex and difficult to understand policies to wrongfully deny and underpay millions in claims. Homes and businesses were lost and lives changed; there is no way to calculate the true devastation. Unless you have lost everything and have had your insurance denied, it is hard to comprehend how frustrating being embroiled in a sea of insurance lawyers can be—it is a curse at best.
Unlike Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina, I am more optimistic that New Jersey law will provide greater relief to policyholders who are wrongfully denied claims. But policyholders must still prove damage to a specific structure, and many aspects of Hurricane Sandy will make future insurance claim battles different from those I fought in the recent past.
More on Monday. Get your shopping done this weekend and enjoy the holiday season.
1 William F. "Chip" Merlin, Jr., Corban v. USAA: A Case Providing Far Too Little Because It Was Rendered Far Too Late, 79 Miss. L.J. Supra 129 (2009), available at http://mississippilawjournal.org/2012/04/corban-v-usaa-a-case-providing-far-too-little-because-it-was-rendered-far-too-late/ (last visited Dec. 20, 2012).