"For instance, damage caused by the surge or flow of floodwater can scour around foundations or undermine a slab, directly damaging the foundation," he said. "By law, the SFIP does not cover earth movement, including destabilization caused by nearby flooding."
Watson said that according to estimates by the insurance companies, more than 99 percent of the 143,000 Sandy-related claims are closed, and approximately $7.8 billion has been paid out to survivors.
"FEMA will not be satisfied until policy holders have received payments for all covered losses," he said. "When a claim or any part of a claim is denied by the insurer, the policyholder may also appeal that denial directly to FEMA."
Attorney Denis Kelly, a Long Beach resident who is representing 150 clients with Sandy-related claims — most of them homeowners, including the Gialanzes — said that insurance companies are looking for “any excuse not to pay.” “If that crack wasn’t there on October 28, but was there on October 30, guess what?” Kelly said. “That foundation is cracked because of the flood. These engineers are coming in and acting as if we had two inches of water. I had six feet of water on my block."
Kelly said he expects to file federal lawsuits on behalf of his clients against the National Flood Insurance Program and the insurance companies that are involved, but the deadline for filing a “proof of loss” will expire on Oct. 29. “If you don’t file a proof of loss,” he explained, “you won’t be able to sue.”
Mittleman said that NFIP does not permit the recovery of attorney’s fees or costs, and that it could take homeowners years to receive money if they litigate.
Still, Kelly said, for many residents it is the only recourse. “People are not going to get paid …,” he said, “and are going to find themselves in a position where they have to get a lawyer because they’re going to have to sue.”
Hoping to return home