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ISSUED 09/02/2011 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SUPERINTENDENT LAWSKY: INSURERS WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE IF THEY ARE MISLEADING HOMEOWNERS ABOUT COVERAGE

NEW YORK, NY (09/02/2011)(readMedia)-- Private insurance is there to help people when a disaster strikes, Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin M. Lawsky said today.

"At Governor Cuomo's direction, the state will do everything in its power to ensure that insurance companies are properly paying claims," Lawsky said.

"If any homeowners are being told that insurance doesn't at all cover the damage caused by Irene, that is just plain wrong. Insurance companies and their personnel will be held accountable if they are misleading New Yorkers about the terms of coverage," he said.

"New Yorkers who suffered losses as the result of the tropical storm should take advantage of all sources of help to recover from the disaster. The federal assistance is designed to supplement state and local recovery efforts," Lawsky said.

According to preliminary damage assessments, the total damage to the state is approximately $1 billion. This total includes all damage to private homes, businesses, cars, public infrastructure and the electrical grid. Much of this damage is covered under private insurance held by individuals and businesses.

Anyone with storm-related losses should file a claim with their insurance company, even if they believe it may not be covered. People who have flood insurance should be assured that their losses are covered even though the flood was caused by Irene. And individuals with flood-related losses who do not have flood insurance are urged to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to see if they qualify for assistance that may include:

Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are uninhabitable.

Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe.

Residents in counties designated for assistance can apply for disaster assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., daily until further notice. Additional information can be obtained on the FEMA website, www.fema.gov.

"Most insurance companies are working hard to do the right thing and serve their customers. However, in some situations there has been misinformation about what losses are covered, how they are covered and what types of losses are not covered by insurance," Lawsky said.

For example:

  • Most homeowner insurance policies DO NOT cover damage from flooding.
  • Flood damage may be covered by separate flood insurance policies.

These policies are normally issued through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federally-backed program managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

  • Most homeowner policies DO provide coverage for damage resulting from wind.
  • Damage to homes from fallen trees is typically covered under a homeowners' policy; such expenses as removing fallen trees may not be covered.
  • Some homeowner insurance policies have higher deductibles for hurricane damage. Since Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm before hitting New York, hurricane deductibles will not apply.
    In cases where residents do have flood insurance, Lawsky said the Insurance Department expects insurers to provide their customers covered through NFIP insurance with the same level of service required of them in selling other lines of insurance.

New Yorkers with questions about insurance are urged to call the New York State Insurance Department's disaster hotline, 1-800-339-1759, Monday though Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Insurance-related information can also be found on the Department's website, www.ins.state.ny.us.

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