New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that his administration has established a new emergency disaster protocol that insurers should expect to follow in the event of future severe storms and other natural disasters.

The protocol includes a number of measures the state’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) put in place in the wake of Superstorm Sandy at Gov. Cuomo’s direction — such as expedited claims processing procedures, emergency licensing of new claims adjusters, a mediation program for disputed claims, and other steps to accelerate claims payments.

“During Superstorm Sandy these steps helped us speed up relief to New York families and businesses, and they will now become a standard part of our storm response arsenal,” said Cuomo.

“Insurance companies have a vital responsibility to promptly process claims for consumers hit by a natural disaster and this new emergency protocol will help make sure that they live up to that standard,” Cuomo said.

New York’s Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky said having an emergency protocol for insurers on the shelf and ready to activate at a moment’s notice will help when another storm strikes.

“This protocol will make it crystal clear to insurers what is expected of them when responding to future natural disasters and helping families and businesses get back on their feet,” Lawsky said.

When Sandy hit New York, the Cuomo administration took a number of steps intended to speed up insurance claims payments and protect consumers. The full range of measures implemented after Sandy are among the procedures that can be activated as part of the Emergency Disaster Protocol for insurers. They included, among others:

  • Creating an expedited process for temporarily licensing new claims adjusters to help ensure an adequate supply of qualified adjusters in affected areas when large losses create a spike in demand for adjusters;
  • Establishing a new online report card to hold insurance companies publicly accountable for their performance processing claims in Sandy-affected areas;
  • Putting in place a temporary moratorium on insurers canceling policies in storm-stricken areas for non-payment of premiums;
  • Creating a voluntary mediation process for homeowners and businesses disputing their insurance claims or dissatisfied with denials of their claims arising from Sandy;
  • Protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers by permitting immediate, necessary repairs and the discarding of dangerous debris; and broadening proof-of-loss-documentation to include photographs, video recordings, material samples, receipts and inventory listings.

Lawsky outlined the Emergency Disaster Protocol in a letter he sent to insurers.

In the wake of Sandy, DFS also worked with the banks and mortgage services it regulates to provide additional relief to New Yorkers. Those measures included providing options for mortgage forbearance and modifications to help prevent foreclosures; faster procedures for the endorsement of insurance claims checks by banks that hold the mortgages so those payments do not get held up by red tape, and waiving fees and penalties at banks for storm-affected consumers.

DFS said it would expect to work with banks and mortgage services to provide similar relief to impacted families and businesses during future storms.

Source: New York State Department of Financial Services