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Albany Law Blog

Changes in flood insurance law may affect many in New York

Over recent years, news coverage has shown city after city devastated by floods that resulted from heavy rains, hurricanes and even massive snowmelt. Some homeowners living in known flood planes are required by insurance law to purchase flood coverage. However, the RAND corporation estimates that, in one recently devastated city, only about 25 to 45 percent of those homes were covered, possibly leaving thousands of families and individuals with few options. In New York, many homeowners may not realize their own homes are at risk.

With few exceptions, homeowners in New York do not volunteer to purchase flood insurance. It is often expensive, and those who do not live in high risk zones prefer to take their chances. On the other hand, about 16 percent of New York homeowners incorrectly believe their policies include flood insurance. Some found this out only after recent flooding damaged their homes.

Insurance company claims during natural disasters

Like many across the country, those in New York likely watched the news as devastating hurricanes battered the East Coast. While some may have breathed a sigh of relief to have been spared, others probably realized they could easily be the victims of such a tragedy, whether it comes as a hurricane, a blizzard or some other force of nature. When homes and valuables are at risk, homeowners may depend on their insurance company to get them back on their feet again after a disaster.

Insurance adjusters know how easily the claims process goes when homeowners have already assessed the damage and prepared documentation for an insurance claim. Those who plan ahead have an inventory of valuables, perhaps including photographs. Gathering as much information about the belongings lost in the home -- including serial numbers, purchase dates, receipts etc. -- will speed up the claims process.

Doctors may overtreat to protect themselves from lawsuits

Whether a patient is seen in a New York doctor's office or in the emergency room, a single complaint may lead to a battery of tests, each one designed to rule out potential causes of the ailment. The patient may leave the facility with a prescription or even an appointment for a surgical procedure to treat the complaint. However, a recent study shows that many doctors overtreat their patients because they are afraid of being sued for malpractice.

The study, authored by a physician from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, surveyed thousands of physicians from across the country and learned that the doctors themselves feel about 30 percent of the care they give is not necessary. This includes about 22 percent of the prescriptions they write, almost 25 percent of diagnostic tests they order and more than 11 percent of medical procedures they perform on patients. Some studies link overtreatment with an increase in patient injury.

Bankruptcy may lead to new mortgage in less time

Many New York residents fear the thought of bankruptcy. The concern often stems from a belief that they will be unable to gain any credit for 10 years.

However, those antiquated thoughts may no longer apply in today’s world of debt and bankruptcy. In fact, the ability to get credit and even secure a mortgage relatively quickly following a bankruptcy discharge is not an illusion.

Car accidents may lead to complex insurance litigation

With the rise in prescription drug addiction, it is not surprising to see an increase in motor vehicle accidents in New York and across the country. Car accidents involving impaired drivers may create complex situations for insurance companies, including those incidents that involve drivers who have no insurance due to previous impaired driving offenses. One recent accident may be an example of a complicated claims procedure that may result in insurance companies reaching out for legal assistance.

Originally, law enforcement believed the accident resulted from a driver having a medical emergency. However, further investigation revealed that the 50-year-old man was allegedly impaired by drugs, perhaps including cocaine. A small amount of cocaine was reportedly found in the man's SUV following the accident.

Soon, everyone will use paperless log systems in their trucks

The public tends to believe that any accident involving an 18-wheeler is the fault of the truck driver. People here in New York and elsewhere look into truck drivers' logs and attempt to disparage their character by claiming that they were fatigued, distracted or otherwise unfit to be driving. This makes paperless log systems even more important since documenting that a trucker was not any of those things when the accident occurred may get easier.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's regulation regarding the use of electronic logging devices is in its implementation phase. The final rule was published on Dec. 16, 2016. By Dec. 16, 2017, trucking companies and truck drivers are required to be in compliance with the regulation. The FMCSA is giving those who currently do not use electronic logging devices two years to make sure that everyone is switched over to these devices so that everyone is required to be in compliance by Dec. 16, 2019.

Insurance industry blamed by uninformed consumers

There is no question that insurance law is complex, and insurance policies are often full of intricate details. Laws governing the insurance industry also vary from state to state, further complicating the matter. Unfortunately, many consumers have a simplistic view of insurance coverage, believing that because they pay a premium, anything that goes wrong should be covered. Instead of having a full understanding of the limitations and conditions of their policies when they purchase them, they may discover those limitations only when disaster strikes.

One of the peculiarities of New York's auto insurance law is that New York is a no-fault state. Like eleven other states, New York requires one's own insurance company to cover any damages from an accident, regardless of whether the policyholder was at fault. The insurance company then seeks to recoup that money from the at-fault driver's insurance company. This system ultimately saves the policyholder money.

Geico bad faith claims may alter insurance law

Insurance companies are often portrayed as the bad guys when claims are denied. They may be accused of acting in bad faith, and it is common for policyholders to file lawsuits in New York courts against companies that deny their claims. However, insurance law varies from state to state, and one state supreme court is facing a challenge of its bad faith laws.

The action resulted from a fatal car accident for which Geico, the insurance company of the driver deemed responsible for the accident, paid $100,000 to the estate of the victim within two weeks of the accident. The estate returned the check to Geico because the family had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the insured driver. The jury in that lawsuit found the insured liable and awarded $8.47 million to the estate of the victim.

3 steps you can take to protect your credit during divorce

Divorce not only takes a toll on your emotions but your finances, too. Those co-signed loans and shared accounts that were once a sign of your romance now cause you immense stress. While you will figure out certain financial problems in your divorce agreement, a lot of things can happen before then, particularly regarding your credit.

Credit problems can even continue long after your divorce if you do not take care of things now. It is time to review the actions you should take to protect your credit score during divorce.

Declaratory judgment actions taken after suspicious accident

When people own items that are precious or valuable, they tend to insure them. If something happens to an object so that it is lost, damaged or rendered useless, the owner can file a claim to be reimbursed up to the value of the insurance policy. Of course, there are often stipulations and limitations. For example, if someone in New York is suspected of setting fire to his own house, insurance companies may file declaratory judgment actions for the court to determine whether the homeowner has nullified his policy through his actions.

One insurance company in another state is taking such steps against a man who has an $85,000 policy on his fishing boat. The man described to authorities how the boat suddenly took on water and sank while he and his mother were deep sea fishing one afternoon. The man was rescued some days later, but his mother's body was never found and the boat never recovered.

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