Lawyer helps storm victims from Louisiana to Queens

Photo courtesy of SHEINKOPF LTD

He has helped victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike. Now he wants to assist those affected by Sandy.

Lawyer John Houghtaling and his firm specialize in claim insurance litigation and disaster recovery law.

They have chased storms around the country to help hurricane victims get the recovery they deserve.

Most recently, Houghtaling has ventured to New York to help Sandy victims. He has spoken at town halls and his firm has met with hundreds of clients.

“The insurance companies have dominated this process because people really don’t know where to turn,” Houghtaling said.

The lawyer said he sees the same thing happen after every storm—insurance companies downplaying damage or deferring payments to the federal government.

“They don’t want to pay you,” he said.

There are five key things that Houghtaling said homeowners should be aware of to get their insurer’s cooperation.

First, he suggests getting a home inspection done by an independent adjuster, not one affiliated with the insurance company. The company’s adjuster has more reason to save the company money and downplay damages to a home.

Second, understand the difference between wind-driven rain and flooding. Wind-driven rain penetrates a home’s walls, and insurance companies are supposed to pay for the damages. However, Houghtaling said insurance companies are “trained to blame everything on flood,” which is covered by federal aid.

Next, homeowners are entitled to an unconditional check of their residences. Houghtaling said you should also understand the timeframe in which insurance companies are supposed to get back to you and ultimately pay for damages.

The last tip is to understand the ins and outs of your own insurance policy.

Houghtaling said places like Louisiana and Texas are better equipped for catastrophic storms than Queens, where people are “unfamiliar” with where to find help.

“The infrastructure to help people isn’t there, so there is massive amounts of confusion,” the attorney said.

Homeowners are entitled to recovery assistance up to two years after the date of the storm, and Houghtaling recommended getting your home’s walls checked as soon as possible. They can stay wet for eight months to a year, and with the hot summer on its way, mold can become a problem. Mold, he noted, is not covered by insurance.

Houghtaling’s next speaking appearance is at a town hall meeting on Wednesday, May 22 at Beach Channel High School.




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