Insurers Deal with Gas Shortages, Power Outages While Handling Sandy Claims

Insurance agents and claims personnel are being hampered by the issues affecting the rest of the Northeast following Superstorm Sandy. 

“A large volume of our agents, sales leaders and associates—including claims personnel that are operating without power—are solely dependent on handheld devices, which they are charging with their vehicles,” Nationwide spokeswoman Elizabeth Stelzer tells PC360.  

Additionally, gas shortages are “affecting teams’ ability to continue operating their vehicles,” and spotty cellphone service from downed cell towers remains another barrier to service thus far after the historic storm devastated multiple states along the East Coast—especially New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island. 

“The devastation in many of these areas is difficult to describe,” reports Stelzer. 

"Claims teams are experiencing the same issues that our policyholders are experiencing," says spokeswoman Holly Anderson of State Farm, who has received 42,000 homeowners claims and 8,000 auto claims as of Nov. 1.

"Our claim teams are working later shifts," she adds. "They’ve found that gas stations are less busy in the evening hours and are using that time to fill up for the next day. To combat cellphone outage areas, our teams have driven out of their way in many cases to make sure they maintain connectivity with our customers." 

As of Nov. 1 Nationwide has received more than 11,000 claims, with most coming from New York (2,481 claims) and Pennsylvania (3,321 claims). 

“Although power has been turned on in some areas, many citizens are still without power,” Stelzer adds. “As electricity and some sense of normalcy return, more claims are expected.” 

At USAA, which services military personnel and their families, many policyholders are in the National Guard and are helping with the rescue and recovery efforts. 

“Some of those individuals may have damage to their own homes, yet they put their own needs aside to help others—and it’s truly inspiring,” says spokeswoman Rebecca Hirsch, who adds that social media has been a big tool in communicating with policyholders, or “members,” as USAA—a reciprocal exchange—calls them. 

Hirsch says USAA has mobile locations set up in Virginia and Atlantic City, N.J., and the insurer is working on setting up more. USAA has received about 25,000 claims as of the morning of Nov. 1.


Liberty Mutual Insurance has deployed several-hundred claims experts to respond to Hurricane Sandy claims, including additional employees who may normally handle auto claims and had been trained in advance of the storm on the phone-reporting of property claims, says spokesman Glenn Greenberg.

"A 1,000-mile-long storm presents unique challenges, but we are well positioned to handle every Sandy claim," Greenberg says. "We’re seeing significant call volume—the majority so far being wind- and power-related—which we anticipate to continue over the next several days as people return to their properties and begin to address their insurance needs."

Catastrophe claims adjusters from around the country are now blanketing the East Coast to visit with customers, and adjusters at mobile claims units are already meeting with customers at locations in Freehold, N.J. and Garden City, N.Y.  Safeco Insurance adjusters also are meeting with their customers at those mobile-unit sites.

Customers have multiple channels to report claims: by phone, over the internet and through our mobile app, Greenberg says. Liberty Mutual also has a Home Inventory App that helps customers catalog their personal possessions that will help facilitate the claims process, he adds.


Farmers says two Mobile Catastrophe Claims buses, one Customer Care Claims Vehicle, and claims teams—including those from subsidiaries Foremost Insurance, 21st Century Insurance and Bristol West—are helping customers file Hurricane Sandy claims in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“We are working hard to provide immediate claims help to all of our customers who have suffered damage from Hurricane Sandy,” says Dan Schrock, Farmers head of AgencyPoint offices, in a statement. “Our agents and claims personnel are assisting our customers with immediate needs and helping them file claims for their damages as quickly as possible.”

The Mobile Catastrophe Claims buses are equipped with state-of-the art satellite communications equipment, claims stations, water and supplies, satellite laptop and telephone capability, and have expert claims personnel on board. The buses are in Toms River, N.J. and Bensalem, Pa. The Customer Care Claims Vehicle is in North Olsted, Ohio.


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