New York Grades Insurers on Sandy Claims After Complaints

New York to Grade Sandy Payouts of Insurers Led by AIG, Allstate
Allstate Corp., the largest publicly traded U.S. auto and home insurer, said yesterday that catastrophes led by Sandy cost $1.08 billion in October. Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg

American International Group Inc. and Allstate Corp. are among insurers being evaluated by New York regulators for their response to superstorm Sandy, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said.

Regulators led by Benjamin Lawksy, head of the New York Department of Financial Services, are publishing the number and size of claims that more than 20 insurers pay as well as the frequency of customer complaints, Cuomo said today in a statement. Cuomo reduced to six business days from 15 the amount of time insurers have to send adjusters to homes and businesses and permitted expedited licensing for out-of-state adjusters.

Policyholders “just can’t get the insurance companies to respond, they can’t get the adjusters to the house, and therefore, they can’t get the construction started,” Cuomo said today at a press conference in Manhattan, without naming the insurers. “If an insurance company is not providing adequate service or fair service, then the state could decide that they shouldn’t be performing that service in the state of New York.”

Homeowners and businesses are seeking payouts on policies to help cover losses from Sandy, which lashed the U.S. Northeast last month, killing more than 100 people and cutting off power to 8 million customers. Allstate, the largest publicly traded U.S. auto and home insurer, said yesterday that catastrophes led by Sandy cost $1.08 billion in October.

Vast Majority

The “vast majority” of claims from Sandy have already been filed and are being evaluated, Ellen Melchionni, president of the New York Insurance Association, said by phone. That makes Cuomo’s decision to cut the time frame for companies to send out adjusters unnecessary, she said.

During “many other crises like this, regulators actually relax regulations knowing that it may be difficult and challenging to respond,” she said “This administration has gone the opposite road.”

Jaclyn Darrohn, an Allstate spokeswoman, said the insurer has thousand of employees helping with Sandy-related efforts, and put 24 mobile claim centers and catastrophe-response vehicles in the affected regions.

“Allstate was typically the first company present in the most devastated areas following the storm,” Darrohn said in an e-mailed statement.

Historic Volume

Cuomo said he’s met with insurers and understands that their response has been slowed by the “historic volume” of claims. Still, dealing with insurers is “the largest single hurdle people are facing,” he said. Insurers in the U.S. are overseen by state regulators, and Lawsky’s department monitors the industry in New York state.

Allstate has received 72,504 claims and 183 complaints, for a ratio of 0.25 percent, the New York regulator said on its website. Policyholder-owned State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the largest U.S. auto and home insurer, has received 48,109 claims and 84 complaints, a ratio of 0.17 percent. The AIG ratio was 0.08 percent.

“We have been engaged with Governor Cuomo and Superintendent Lawsky and fully support their new time frame for responding to homeowners claims,” said Jim Ankner, a spokesman for AIG. State Farm’s Rachael Risinger said the company is committed to serving clients.

“It is vital that New Yorkers receive their claim settlements as soon as possible, so that they can rebuild,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We must do everything possible to make sure we hold insurance companies accountable to their customers.”

Allstate Claims

About 66 percent of Allstate’s catastrophe claims in October came from New York, and New Jersey accounted for 20 percent, the Northbrook, Illinois-based company said.

Swiss Re Ltd., the world’s second-biggest reinsurer, said this week that it may pay $900 million in claims related to Sandy. Total market losses could be as much as $25 billion, the Zurich-based company said. AIG, based in New York, hasn’t disclosed claims from Sandy.

Chubb Corp., Travelers Cos. and Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. are among other insurers evaluated on the New York website.

“Our companies have committed significant resources to help their customers during these difficult times,” the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said in an e-mailed statement. “Adjusters for all of our members are working extraordinary hours to help every one of their customers in need.”

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