Legal clinic scheduled for those struggling with Sandy claims

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BRIGANTINE - Superstorm Sandy is the “gift that keeps on giving,” to the dismay to those who are still trying to get back to pre-Sandy standards. While many issues continue to affect those who live on barrier islands like Brigantine, insurance claims have been particularly irritating.

This past week changes took effect with the FEMA managed National Flood Insurance Program that will primarily affect second home owners and businesses. However, primary home owners will see premium increases in the future, and most will be dramatic.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, there are 671 primary flood insurance policies in Brigantine that will be affected by the increase.

New Jersey has suffered the third most National Flood Insurance losses in the country since 1978 ($5.3 billion) only behind Louisiana ($16.6 billion) and Texas ($5.5 billion). 

Congress has gone on record that the National Flood Insurance Program is insolvent and that U.S. taxpayers will no longer “bankroll” the program.

The Biggert-Waters Act passed in 2012 was intended to alleviate this question.  Instead, it has caused additional issues.

U.S. Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Jon Runyan have co-sponsored a bill to mitigate the effect of the anticipated premium increase by stretching out the time for implementation.  But the bill remains in committee as other issues have dominated congressional discussions.

But FEMA is not the only insurance issue plaguing Sandy victims.

At a recent meeting in Trenton, legislators heard horror stories from shore residents who are battling with insurance companies that do not want to pay the full coverage amount on their policies.  In some cases, mortgage companies and banks are holding insurance company checks. 

Good communication regarding the rights of policy holders has been difficult to come by with one of the biggest complaints directed toward the National Flood Insurance Program itself.

State officials claimed that of the 458,000 non-flood claims filed, insurance companies have paid out more than $3.6 billion to date, settling more than 96 percent of the claims.

The non-profit Volunteer Lawyers For Justice has scheduled a free legal clinic in Atlantic City on Friday, Oct. 18 to help anyone with a legal issue from Superstorm Sandy.  Individuals needing more involved assistance may be referred to an attorney, if financially eligible. 

The clinic will be held between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at St. Andrew By the Sea Lutheran Church, 936 Baltic Ave. Appointments may be scheduled by contacting (855) 301-2525. 

Those attending are urged to bring documentation including correspondence with FEMA, insurance policies, correspondence with insurers, leases, correspondence with landlords, mortgages and recent mortgage statements. 

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