New York Assembly Insurance Committee Chair Kevin Cahill (D Ulster, Dutchess) held a hearing today to examine the claims settlement practices of insurers related to Superstorm Sandy. Cahill was joined by a panel of other Assemblymembers including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The goal of the hearing was to determine if policy holders are properly informed of their coverage needs and options to deal with future disasters. Legislators heard testimony from consumers, commercial and residential policy holders impacted by the storm, Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, insurance agents and brokers, independent and public adjusters, and major insurance companies.
As a result of Superstorm Sandy, many businesses in Lower Manhattan are still shuttered and residential buildings are uninhabitable, said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D Manhattan). This situation is simply unacceptable considering the high premiums many of our fellow citizens pay for their insurance coverage. As we move forward it is critical that we make sure that insurance companies do a better job of coming through with the assistance they are paid to provide. This is a critical issue for property owners, business owners and residents throughout our city who are continuing to struggle in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
In an event of a disaster, especially one as devastating as Superstorm Sandy, it is important that families and businesses can rely on their insurance policies to provide a path to recovery, said Assemblymember Cahill. This hearing was essential for us to understand the challenges that policy holders faced so we can make meaningful changes to the way insurance companies operate across the state.
After a disaster like Sandy, families and businesses are at the mercy of insurance companies to recover and rebuild, said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D Rockaway). The slow response time of insurance companies after a catastrophic event like Hurricane Sandy is negligent and utterly unacceptable. I commend Speaker Silver and the Assembly Standing Committee on Insurance for putting this hearing together. I look forward to working with the Department of Financial Services and my colleagues to hold companies accountable and provide residents the essential resources they need to recover from this disaster and any future event.
As we endeavor to recover from Sandy, we cannot allow the insurance industry to delay or stifle our efforts. People who have lost everything should not now be forced to fight insurance carriers for their fair share of something that they paid for. Hearing first hand from victims about their insurance issues will help us to craft better legislation that will provide real relief for Sandy victims, said Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D Staten Island).
In Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, neighborhoods in my district that were severely impacted by Sandy, residents and business owners are still trying to recover from the devastation. Nearly four months after the fact, people are still struggling to rebuild their homes and reopen their businesses and, for many of them, issues with insurance claims are the reason this process is taking so long, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D Brooklyn) said. Todays hearing is important and relevant not only because of the catastrophic event we suffered in the past, but because of other disasters that might happen in the future.
Superstorm Sandy had a devastating impact on every facet of many New Yorker's lives. Now, as they are trying to rebuild, many are facing difficulties collecting settlements for their insurance claims or discovering that their insurance coverage was insufficient to protect their property against this kind of large-scale disaster. All New Yorkers should have access to clear and affordable insurance policies to safeguard their homes, businesses and other belongings in difficult times. This hearing is an important first step toward addressing these issues and I will continue to work to ensure these protections in the future, said Assemblyman Dan Quart (D Manhattan).
The destruction of Superstorm Sandy was devastating to our families and businesses. It is important that we understand and streamline the types of coverage and claims processes with insurance companies to ensure that our families can rebuild quickly and our businesses can be operational keeping our thriving small businesses profitable. This storm will not be the last, and we must ensure that New Yorkers are prepared in the future with the right coverage and quick responses, said Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D Jackson Heights).
When families pay their insurance premiums they deserve a claims process that is fair and timely. Today's public hearing proves that too many insurers put the bottom line ahead of honoring claims and, in doing so, irresponsibly force those who have suffered the most to wait for a check to rebuild their lives, said Assemblyman James Skoufis (D Woodbury). That is why I have introduced legislation (A.1092) that would streamline the claims process once a natural disaster has been declared and expediently get victims the relief they need and deserve. Insurance companies need to be held accountable so that families are not fighting for settlements, months or even years, after a storm hits.
"It is evidently clear that home and small business owners received the raw end of the deal from insurance companies after Super Storm Sandy. They were left in the dark for too long. I will join my colleagues in bringing light to this predicament by pushing for transparent storm policies, and finding relief for all of those affected by Sandy," said Assembly Member Rafael Espinal (D Brooklyn).
Assemblymember Cahill and the Insurance Committee will be hosting roundtables in the areas of the state hardest hit by the storms in the coming months on behalf of the local members. These roundtables will provide additional insight into the process of insurance claims settlements following the storm.