Hurricane Sandy Insurance Q&A

Hurricane Sandy power outage

The Empire State Building stands out amid the power outage. (David Shankbone, Wikimedia Commons)

What’s covered by insurance after Sandy?

We’re working quickly to help customers recover from Hurricane Sandy, which has caused estimated insured losses of $5 billion to $15 billion, according to insurance industry analysts Eqecat and AIR Worldwide.

We’re hurting, too: Our main phone line is not working properly, and we’ve set up a temporary phone number to field calls from customers — (347) 234-2935.

Some answers to questions we’re hearing frequently from customers:

Does my policy cover downed trees?

It depends on whether the tree fell on your home. Here’s how the reimbursement rules usually apply:

Home damage: A typical homeowners policy covers damage from trees that hit the home, plus cleanup and removal. If a tree on your property damages a neighbor’s home, or a neighbor’s tree hits your house, personal liability coverage may apply.

Downed trees: Toppled trees that don’t hit anything but the ground typically aren’t covered. Cleanup costs fall on the property owner. Some insurers will issue broader policies that cover landscape damage up to $1,500.

Is wind damage covered?

Windstorm coverage is usually standard with most apartment and home policies, although it’s always good to check and make sure. What you may not realize is that most policies don’t cover gradual seepage. If your building isn’t waterproofed, wind-driven rain can leak through cracks in walls and ceilings. If that happens, you’ll need proof that the storm tore a hole through the roof or wall, and that’s how the water got in. In New York, many high-rise windows are at the perfect height to be knocked out by flying debris. That kind of damage, as well as the water that comes through the opening, is covered.

We lost power. Is food spoilage covered?

It depends. Some policies will cover food spoilage, but it’s not universal, and some companies offer it as an add-on. If you think your policy might cover spoilage, take photos to document your losses, and find the receipts if you still have them.

What’s the first step?

First, document any damage and losses by taking photos. If you have a window that’s been knocked out or a hole in your roof, you’ll need to mitigate damage by boarding up the window or putting a tarp on the roof. An insurer may not pay for additional damage caused by a broken window that continues to let in rain. Then give us a call as quickly as you can. Our temporary phone number is 347-234-2935.

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