From the December 2012 issue of Claims Magazine •Subscribe!

Sheltering Insureds From Housing Hassles

In Disaster’s Wake, Insurers Can Shine

Last month, Sandy carved a path of destruction that left millions without power and hundreds of thousands without shelter and other necessities. Figures released as of Nov. 28 suggest the superstorm destroyed at least 305,000 homes in New York and another 72,000 in New Jersey. By comparison, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged 214,000 homes in Louisiana, though  their toll on human lives was far greater. Large-scale disasters such as these test even the most seasoned adjusters, especially in securing shelter for insureds quickly. 

Claims spoke with Gary Stephen, senior vice president of claims and risk management at PURE, about how to successfully accommodate insureds, including high-net-worth individuals.

Q. What helps ensure success in meeting policyholders’ immediate housing needs in the wake of a disaster?

A. Pre-storm preparation is one of the most crucial competencies of a company’s successful post-storm response. [For example], long before Sandy made landfall, PURE’s claims and risk management team began to put all of our proverbial ducks in a row. We began by reaching out to the housing and realty services with whom we have established relationships to secure housing accommodations for [policyholders] likely to be evacuated or otherwise displaced from their homes. We also prepared a list of questions to ask our displaced members following the storm, so that we could try to meet their needs as best possible. 

Further, knowing the insured’s deductible and the scope of the damage at his or her home was critical in determining whether the need for ALE would be covered by the respective policy, or if the member might be paying out of pocket. Lastly, it was crucially important to communicate this to the member so there would not be any surprises.

Q. What are some unique housing needs you encounter with the high-net-worth client?

A. The coverage that PURE’s High Value Homeowners policy provides is unique in that isn’t bound by time or a dollar threshold, but rather by the time required for repairs. It is our goal to try and place our members, who are successful, high net worth individuals, in situations that are as comparable to their homes as is possible. Additionally, we aim to cater to their unique needs. For instance, many of our members have children who need to be near their schools, pets that need to be kept close by and cared for, or health-related issues that must be taken into account and addressed. In  meeting the needs of [these] clients, PURE’s Member Advocates evaluate each family’s [specific] needs and work with outside services to provide  the best possible solution for members that are going through such a traumatic event like Sandy.

Q. Can you share any anecdotes from dealing with claims and housing needs stemming from Sandy?

A. Following the superstorm, a good number of our members wanted to be involved in procuring their own living arrangements. They knew their neighborhoods and their needs better than anyone. Because long-term rentals were going to be in great demand, and finding acceptable properties was proving to be somewhat of a problem for already overwhelmed temporary housing services, it was imperative to secure leases quickly once a family found a rental that they liked. In several cases, we worked directly with our members’ realtors and overnight expressed security deposits and first month’s rent to ensure that our members were placed in the accommodations of their own choosing.

One anecdote to share is a New Jersey member who expressed concern for his elderly mother who lived with the family and relied on a wheelchair. By communicating with this member in a timely manner, PURE found a home that enabled handicapped access to meet her needs. In another case, a Long Island, New York member who was in her third trimester of pregnancy required special accommodations that would keep her close to her doctor. We were able to meet her specific needs.

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