As this story unfolds, the details become more and more disturbing. I’ve reported previously in “The Second Disaster” and "FEMA to Reopen ALL Sandy Claims!”, that insurance carriers have been accused of defrauding thousands of Sandy Flood victims by reprehensibly altering engineering reports to deny or lowball claims.
The discovery of these activities prompted investigations by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security and the New York Attorney General’s office. Not surprisingly, it’s also motivated FEMA to negotiate monetary settlements with Sandy victims, and to reform programs to ensure this will not happen again. This is obviously a good thing, right?
Well, it’s been recently discovered that at least one carrier, Travelers Insurance, has required homeowners to sign a confidentiality agreement in exchange for higher settlements. This would release Travelers from any criminal activity and prevent flood victims from cooperating with state and federal law enforcement agencies investigating these potentially fraudulent practices.
Cheryl Pollak, US Magistrate Judge from New York, questioned the legality of the confidentiality release stating “I have major concerns with this language as being a violation of New York state and federal laws”. U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes Jr. called the release a "mind-blowing proposal".
Imagine you own your dream house along the coast. You realize there are risks, being so close to the ocean, but you have insurance to cover those risks. Your property is devastated by a hurricane and your insurance company hires an engineer to see if your claim is valid. Their engineer’s original report states that your home was damaged due to the storm and that it must be demolished and rebuilt. Case closed, right?
Not so fast! Your insurance company then encourages their engineer to re-write the report, to blame the damages on pre-existing settlement, so they can deny your claim.
Unbelievable, you say? Well, that’s what it looks like happened here.
And to add insult to injury, at least one carrier has now tried to “pay off” the victims, silencing them in exchange for higher monetary settlements to exonerate themselves.
Don’t be victimized twice, consult with the professionals at Richard Green and Son Public Adjusters following any property loss. Remember, your insurance company protects you from disaster and we protect you from your insurance company!