New law aims to expedite disaster insurance claims in New York

James Skoufis

Originally published in Spectrum News 1 on .

A bill recently signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul could speed up the amount of time it takes for insurance companies to respond to New Yorkers' claims. That’s following natural disasters that cause the governor or the president to declare a state of emergency.

Seven months after Cornwall resident Kristine Schmidt’s home was severely damaged during flooding, she’s still dealing with cleanup.

“It was absolutely devastating to see my portfolio from when I was a young designer, just decimated,” Schmidt said. “You collect things along the way, and those are your memories.”

Schmidt and her partner bought their home in September 2022. Knowing it was located on a flood plain, they purchased flood insurance. New appliances and almost all of their belongings were moved into the home by the following summer, when a major storm slammed the area.

“My clothing, my dresses are all on a rack hanging in my living room here. We no longer have a kitchen. We no longer have laundry,” Schmidt said.

Since then, Schmidt said they’ve had trouble getting money from their insurance company to make replacements and begin repairs. She said they received only a portion of what they needed in October, three months after the storm.

“To wait that long to get a check, just to be able to put a floor in so that we could maybe get a kitchen, I think a lot of stuff would have been done a lot sooner, and we wouldn’t be so in debt,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt is hopeful that new legislation introduced by state Sen. James Skoufis and now signed by Hochul can help her family.

“This is going to be an ongoing, very important issue. And honestly, it's unfortunately increasingly important as we have more and more of these storms seemingly each year,” Skoufis said.

The new law requires insurance companies to respond to disaster or emergency claims within 15 business days of closing an investigation and pay within three business days of a claim settlement.

“Once you put in that request, you need to hear back quickly. You've got to repair that roof. You've got to repair that window. You can't wait five months,” Skoufis said.

Two more floods have ravaged her home since that July storm. Schmidt is unsure of what the future may hold.

“Right now, I’m really hoping that I have a house to live in in a year that looks like a house that I bought,” Schmidt said.

Skoufis introduced the bill in 2013, shortly after Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast coast. The law goes into effect immediately as New Yorkers brace for the potential of major storms in the future.