Hewlett-based firm being investigated

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Mark Maguire, of JN Grace Group Inc., a Melville-based company that is a national agent for Tower, said that a lack of manpower could have led to slower-than-usual responses to claims. “They may not have had enough people in the field,” Maguire said, referring to the three companies. “I was speaking to an adjuster recently, and he said they were not able, physically, to respond to all the claims. They were overwhelmed.” Maguire said that the use of out-of-state adjusters may have resulted in reduced settlements, because those adjusters are not familiar with the costs associated with rebuilding in the New York area.

A hands-on approach is necessary to help ensure that customers receive their settlements, he said. “We are very proactive, and stay on top of the adjusters,” Maguire said, adding that the settlement delays he had seen were associated with flood insurance payments.

The Department of Financial Services issued a demand for information from the three insurance companies, to which they are legally required to respond. They could be fined for violating state insurance regulations. Insurers are required to inspect properties within 15 days of the filing of claims. The deadline was reduced on Nov. 29 to six business days for some Sandy victims.

“It is essential that people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Storm Sandy receive insurance they are eligible for as quickly as possible so they can return to their homes and begin rebuilding,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release. “We have been working with the insurance industry to streamline the rules and thank the companies who have responded. But we won’t tolerate insurers not doing what homeowners paid them to do — respond quickly in a disaster.”

To report a complaint, contact the Department of Financial Services Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at (800) 342-3736, (212) 480-6400 or (518) 474-6600. The emergency hotline is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekend.

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