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Two Insurers: Sandy Claims Already Top Irene So Far

November 16, 2012

By Richard Newman, The Record, Bergen County, N.J.

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Two large property and casualty insurers say home and auto claims from superstorm Sandy have already surpassed claims from Hurricane Irene in 2011.

A spokesman for the Department of Banking and Insurance said Wednesday that the department has received only 17 formal written consumer complaints and fewer than 400 complaints and questions overall.

"This is an unprecedented storm for us, and so far the industry is responding very well," said spokesman Marshall McKnight.

The department set up three mobile offices this week in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties to handle more questions and complaints, and to help people file claims.

"Many people have seen adjusters already and most will see them shortly," although some areas along the barrier islands of the Jersey Shore have only this week become accessible to property owners and adjusters, said Bob Hartwig, economist for the Insurance Information Institute.

New Jersey Manufacturers Group of West Trenton, one of the state`s biggest home and auto insurers, had received more than 38,000 New Jersey homeowner and 8,400 auto claims connected to Sandy as of late Tuesday.

NJM received about 21,000 New Jersey auto and homeowner claims as a result of Irene.

State Farm Insurance of Bloomington, Ill., said Wednesday that the latest tally, which includes claims received through Monday, topped 91,000 total homeowner claims, including more than 26,000 from New Jersey policyholders. State Farm`s Sandy-related auto claims totaled 15,000, including nearly 4,000 from New Jersey customers.

State Farm received about 79,000 Irene-related homeowner claims and 8,000 auto claims, including all the affected states.

"We are well positioned to handle all the claims," said Glenn Greenberg, spokesman for Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. "We have 180 adjusters on the ground in New Jersey from every corner of the nation. Our goal has been to have them get in contact with the customer within 72 hours [of filing a claim]" Greenberg said.

J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, and a former Texas insurance commissioner, said policyholders have to expect slower claims processing in an event of this magnitude.

"You have to be patient, but not ridiculously patient," he said. "The bigger the event, the slower it gets. Even if you have a lot of people, you may not have enough."

In normal times, an individual claim should be done within 30 days of filing, he said.

"I would say with this kind of event the bulk should be done within 60 days, with check in hand," he said.

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(C) 2012 The Record, Bergen County, NJ. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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Story Image: In this Nov. 10, 2012, file photo, John Papanier, 12, directs traffic on a street congested by vehicles during cleanup after Superstorm Sandy, in the New Dorp section of Staten Island, N.Y. Residents of New York's Staten Island borough are noticing something new as they and volunteers work to clear the remains of storm-damaged homes: gawkers. Cruising by in cars or walking through streets snapping photos, these are people drawn to the scene of a tragedy to glimpse what they've seen on television come to life.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

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