Tropical Storm or Hurricane? Why it Matters.

The simple designation of whether Sandy is a Hurricane or Tropical Storm could make a millions of dollars of difference to storm victims.

New York Senator Charles Schumer is trying to keep Sandy from being classified as a hurricane. Do senators have power over weather, and why does he care? While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is charged with classifying storms as either hurricanes or tropical storms, Senator Schumer wants to make sure if there is an ambiguity, Sandy is a tropical storm. The simple designation could make a millions of dollars of difference to storm victims.

Most insurance polices have separate deductibles for damages caused by storms and damages caused by hurricanes. Hurricane damage deductibles are often a percentage of the value of the house. An average hurricane damage deductible in the areas hit by Sandy is thought to be $20,000. However, the storm deductible is typically $1,000. After the deductible the insurance company pays the rest of the damages up to the policy limit.   The high deductible for hurricane damages sometimes keeps owners from being able to get any insurance benefits at all.

NOAA originally classified Sand as a category 1 hurricane when it was in the Atlantic. However, once Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, NOAA downgraded Sandy to a post-hurricane tropical storm. Senator Schumer reports that the insurance industry is putting pressure on NOAA to reclassify Sandy as a hurricane. Schumer wanted to let NOAA know that it should not bow to industry pressure.

There are also rumors that some insurance companies have made inquiries into the possibilities of suing NOAA to get Sandy reclassified. Senator Schumer also warned consumers to be wary and vigilant in dealing with insurance companies, particularly over deductible amounts. This issue is unlikely to go away soon. Polices are not always clear on what the legal definition of a hurricane is. It seems likely that at least some insurance companies are going to claim Sandy was a hurricane for insurance policy purposes, no matter what NOAA decides.

Schumer also counseled consumers to not take negative deductible decisions without a fight. He urged consumers to ask to talk to supervisors, and report companies trying to charge hurricane deductibles to state insurance commissions. One of the most important issues is understanding the rights under the individual policy.

Dealing with insurance companies can be a frustrating and time-consuming endeavor. Adjusters deal with insurance concepts every day, while consumers may only have to worry what their policy says once or twice in their life. Make sure you protect your legal rights are protected. If you have any questions about your deductible or claims for damages as a result of Sandy, contact an experienced legal professional today. The time to enforce your legal rights may be limited.


If you need assistance in assessing your Hurricane Sandy insurance policy, or believe the insurance companies are trying to avoid paying their full and fair obligations, the lawyers at Slater Slater Schulman LLP are available to assist you.  A consultation with our insurance lawyers is free.   Call us at (800) 251-6990 or fill out the form on this page, and an insurance attorney will get back to you shortly.

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