If you are owed insurance money, it is necessary to take action now to ensure your rights are preserved, especially for flood insurance claims
Flood insurance deadlines will vary by person, and as interpreted by FEMA they could pass in a matter of weeks or even days for you.
Flood insurance requires that you submit a new “proof of loss” to preserve your claim. Proof of loss consists of multiple FEMA forms and supporting documentation, stating and supporting the full value of your claim (both what you have been paid and what you are owed). It requires great care, and involves experts. It is important to read our Critical Update (from Nov.) and Insurance Checklist and Cover Letter (from Sept.) for more information, linked here.
FEMA has extended the proof of loss deadline, stating proof of loss may be “received” by the insurer by April 29, 2014 if your date of loss is Oct. 29, 2012 (or by April 28, 2014 if your date of loss is Oct. 28, 2012).
However, a second deadline – the deadline in which to file a lawsuit – may require you to both submit valid proof of loss and then file suit before this April 2014 extension.
Under FEMA’s interpretation, its proof of loss extension to April 2014 may not apply to you. You may need to submit proof of loss, and file a lawsuit, before April 2014 to preserve your rights.
Your “first denial” date is the starting point for a one-year deadline to file a lawsuit, and to comply with proof of loss beforehand.
FEMA issued a bulletin on November 21st about what constitutes a “denial” of Sandy flood insurance claims for starting the one-year deadline to file a lawsuit. The bulletin is available here.
The issue of what constitutes a “denial” remains unclear, however. It requires the careful exercise of professional judgment and a thorough review of your documents. (See the link below the Critical Update for a form letter to try to get your insurance claims file.) Some examples of what may arguably constitute a “denial” are in the Fact Sheet to our Critical Update.
At this point, an experienced lawyer is needed to determine your deadlines. Legal representation is needed to develop a strategy for preserving your rights.
Determining any “denial” has become a legal issue, requiring careful review of your insurance correspondence plus a strategy to address it. FEMA’s bulletin does not list all of the examples above, which requires professional judgment.
An experienced attorney is needed to provide a legal interpretation of your deadlines, and develop an interrelated strategy with you to ensure “proof of loss” is complied with on time, and file a lawsuit and amend it if advisable at the right time in the proper Federal Court.
This is a new phase which requires that you develop a strategy to preserve your rights.
These deadlines involve legal interpretation, and an individual strategy to address them based on a careful review of your insurance correspondence. FEMA’s bulletin raises issues about what constitutes a denial and the timing and approach for preserving your rights. It requires legal analysis based on your facts, to develop a strategy with you on how to comply with proof of loss and the lawsuit deadline.
An experienced attorney should discuss different approaches with you based on your facts and circumstances. For instance, a lawsuit will stop FEMA appeals and change the process for negotiating with the insurer, because negotiation would ultimately be done through lawyers by the time that the complaint is served. But, as unfair as it is, a lawsuit may be required to avoid issues with FEMA’s deadlines.
If you are reading this, chances are that you did everything right, and you are here for reasons beyond your control. We are sorry for what you are going through. Our hotline and clinic have been an emergency resource, but it has unfortunately reached a point where retaining a lawyer is necessary to preserve your rights. We would like to help more, but we have limited capacity as a small teaching clinic.
Because we cannot take your case for representation, we are not able to determine your flood insurance deadlines, or to file proof of loss or a lawsuit on your behalf.
However, we will continue to have walk-in clinics generally every week with no appointment necessary. Dates and locations are posted each week on this website. The next one is in the late afternoon and evening on Wednesday, December 11th and posted immediately below.
Check back soon – We expect to have additional important information about FEMA’s bulletin posted on this website by Wednesday December 11th.
(Updated December 8, 2013)