Interactive Map: Sandy-Related Insurance Claims

Estimates of total incurred losses through the end of March.

Total incurred losses due to Superstorm Sandy through March 29. Hovering over an area will bring up a summary of total claims data. To find more information, including some breakdowns by residential, commercial and flood claims, zoom in to an area then click on it. This does not include information on policies written by surplus lines — about 2 percent of all in the state. Actual losses are expected to be higher.

Source: NJ Department of Banking and Insurance

Insurance companies expect to pay at least $7.5 billion in claims to New Jerseyans for losses due to Superstorm Sandy, according to the most current data available from state insurance officials.

That estimate is as of the end of March and the final amount paid is likely to be higher, for several reasons. The data from the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance does not include insurance policies written through surplus lines and excess insurers, which make up about 2 percent of the homeowners’ market, nor claims that have not yet been filed. In addition, claims already filed may ultimately be settled for more or less than currently anticipated and some data regarding flood claims from the National Flood Insurance Program has been unavailable.

Through March 29, insurers had paid out $6.1 billion to cover losses, including $2.9 billion for flood damage, which represents almost half of all claims, according to the DOBI data.

Not surprisingly, most of the areas with the largest amount of insurance losses incurred are along the Jersey Shore. But the ZIP code with the largest total is the 07032 area that includes the Hackensack River and Meadowlands, with Kearny and North Arlington, which had $221 million in losses. Five other areas had more than $100 million in losses: Toms River’s 08753, the Newark South Station of 07114, Point Pleasant’s 08742, Long Beach’s 08008 and Newark’s Ironbound’s 07105.

Individuals and businesses filed a total of 516,316 claims, with 90 percent of those closed five months after Sandy hit at the end of October.

Source: NJ Department of Banking and Insurance

Of the roughly 466,000 claims that have been closed, 77 percent have received a payment. The reasons why 104,000 did not get paid for a claim vary, ranging from the amount of damage being less than the policy deductible or claims made on the wrong policy, such as a car damaged by a fallen tree being reported under homeowners’ insurance instead of the auto policy, according to Marshall McKnight, a DOBI spokesman.

He added that many of the residential property denials resulted from homeowners without covered damage seeking a denial letter to send to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to be eligible for aid.

Some people have had difficulty with insurance claims. To date, the DOBI has fielded more than 3,300 calls about Sandy-related insurance issues. The biggest complaint, lodged by nearly a quarter of all who have contacted the department, has been about delays. More than 1 in 10 also complained about an unsatisfactory settlement offer, according to data from the department.

McKnight said the department has received 1,900 formal requests for assistance, including 415 due to denial of a claim and 49 involving disputes over coverage. Two months ago, DOBI issued an order requiring insurers to respond to Sandy-related inquiries from the department within five business days, instead of the usual 15 days, or face a penalty. Insurers can request only one five-day extension of time to respond.

“We get involved with any consumer who contacts the department and provide them with assistance any way we can,” McKnight said. “If it’s a company we regulate, we will take all the information, get the facts and reach out to the company.”

The state has no control over flood insurance from the NFIP but staffers have been working closely with program officials over the last two months. One published report last week stated that FEMA officials said they have settled 96 percent of post-Sandy flood-insurance claims in New Jersey.

After Sandy, the department expanded its consumer call center – (609) 292-7272 — and set up a backup call site to handle the high volume of calls. Staffers also have worked with federal disaster relief centers and at mobile offices to answer questions. The department has set up a free mediation program, administered by the American Arbitration Association, to help property owners settle claims without having to go to court. There is a separate hot line for flood-insurance complaints: 800-427-4661.

McKnight said one issue complicating many outstanding claims involves the new flood maps and the need for homes to be elevated as part of the rebuilding process. Property owners are understandably seeking assistance from as many avenues as possible – private insurance, FEMA, the NIFP, community development block grants, the Small Business Association and private loans.

“The cases we are seeing now are more complicated,” he said. “It’s not just ‘the tree fell on the house,’ those are all settled. “