Hurricane Sandy and Your Legal Rights

With Hurricane Sandy barreling down on the East Coast everyone should naturally be concerned, first and foremost, with protecting their safety and the safety of their friends, neighbors and family.  But when the storm clears there will undoubtedly be hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, in damages.  Dealing with this damage can be the most overwhelming part of the hurricane as you struggle to put your life back together and move forward.  The wind, rain and flood damage can be devastating and make it seems like your life is in ruins.  The key to moving on will be knowing your rights and taking each step one at a time.

With the hurricane damage will come legal consequences.  There are two particularly important things for hurricane storm damage sufferers to remember.  First, remember to hire reputable contractors for your repairs.  While the storm can make you feel rushed and you will have an understandable desire to get back into your home as soon as possible, you should not cut corners and rush the process.  Check your contractor out and make sure he, she or it is licensed.  New York City, Nassau County, Westchester County and Suffolk Counties all license home improvement contractors.  By simply contacting the Department of Consumer Affairs you can verify that your contractor has the proper license.  Home owners should beware though; just because someone has a license does not mean that they can be unconditionally trusted.  Get a clear and solid scope of work in writing from the contractor and get a price in writing.  Make sure that your contractor has experience in the work that is being performed and knows how to handle the water damage that will certainly follow the hurricane.

Second, keep your insurance information on hand and ready.  If you have to evacuate because of the storm conditions, try to bring your insurance information with you.  Once the storm clears and you begin the repair process you do not want to be stuck searching for your insurance carrier’s name, phone number  or policy number.  Make sure that you submit claims to your insurance carrier as soon as possible.  While it is perfectly acceptable to notify the insurer of the claim by phone, you should always follow up in writing.  If you have to make emergency repairs before the insurer can get someone out to investigate, do your best to document the repairs.  Take before and after photographs (the more the better) and keep copies of invoices for all work performed.  The photographs and invoices will be crucial in submitting your claim to your insurer as you seek reimbursement for the storm damage that was repaired.

Unfortunately, it is inevitable that some of the contractors that perform repairs will do so poorly and legal action against them will be required,  Likewise, it is inevitable that some insurance companies will deny claims for storm damage that really should have been covered.  Common policy exclusions in the New York City and Long Island areas, such as the “named storm” exclusion, may lead to denial of otherwise valid claims.  If you believe that your contractor or insurance company has made a mistake, and has not treated you properly in how it has responded to the damage from Hurricane Sandy, don’t be afraid to contact an attorney and pursue your legal rights.  The attorneys at Kushnick Pallaci, PLLC have experience in handling both defective repair work claims as well as assisting with the insurance claim process and suing insurance companies when they fail to provide coverage for losses that should have been covered.

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