Learning about insurance claims

Hurricane Sandy victims receive advice to proceed with repairs


Hewlett Harbor resident Jeff Friedman, a 35-year public adjustor, wanted to provide hope to Five Towns residents and others in Nassau County who have received denial letters from their insurance companies and are not getting the money they need to repair their damaged after Hurricane Sandy.

Friedman invited Tampa, Fla. property insurance claim attorney William F. Merlin, Jr. to speak to Five Towns residents at the Woodmere Club on Feb. 7. “He’s the Rolls Royce of lawyers,” Friedman said.

Merlin has been litigating property insurance cases for more than 25 years and wherever a natural disaster strikes, you’ll most likely find him and his team there. “It’s rare that I won’t show up,” he said. “After hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Hugo I set up offices because this is a small niche of law and not a lot of people practice this.”

After natural disasters, Merlin said it’s vital that homeowners have professionals such as electricians, plumbers and roofers inspect their home for damage. “I don’t find many insurance companies climbing up to look at someone’s roof,” he said. “They’ll look from the ground and take some pictures but if they don’t get up into the rafters, they might miss broken beams.”

Javier Delgado, a property insurance claim attorney for the Merlin Law Group, said it’s important to question insurance adjusters to help ensure they put your needs above all else. “It doesn’t necessarily mean an insurance adjuster knows what he’s doing or has your best interest at heart,” he said. “ Always ask how much experience they have in handling hurricane property damage claims.”

Hewlett Harbor residents, Barbara and Edward Held, had wind and flood damage, as well as sewage backup into their home after Sandy. They wanted to learn their rights as consumers. “Insurance denied our flood claim and we had eleven yachts fly into our backyard and destroy it,” Barbara said. Following Merlin’s presentation, Edward said, “perhaps we need meteorologists, experts and engineers to prove our claims.”

According to Merlin, New York and New Jersey is where the next big insurance controversies are being played out as insurance companies are denying many Hurricane Sandy claims. “A lot of people are disheartened, afraid of controversy and it creates anxiety and it doesn’t have to be that way,” he said. “I want to educate people and provide optimism for them.”