Three Legal Developments Are Designed to Ease and Speed Sandy-Related Disaster Relief Process for New Jersey Residents and Businesses

By Samantha Sherman, Esq.
ssherman@pashmanstein.com

New Jersey Establishes New Insurance Mediation Program to Speed Sandy-Related Claims

A new mediation program will allow New Jersey residents whose property was damaged or destroyed by Sandy to settle disputed insurance cases without having to engage in costly and time consuming litigation.  Under the program, property owners will be able to submit homeowner’s, automobile and commercial property insurance claims to a mediator who will review the case and assist in settlement discussions.  Insurance carriers will pay for the cost of the mediator.

The program will be available for non-flood Sandy-related claims greater than $1,000 that do not include a reasonable suspicion of fraud and are based on policies in force at the time Sandy made landfall.  The program initially will not include flood insurance claims because the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) handles those claims pursuant to federal regulations.   However, the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance will monitor and assess the viability of securing NFIP participation in certain cases at a later date.

State regulated insurers must notify insureds with open or unresolved homeowner’s, automobile and commercial property claims that they can request a mediation conference and detailed instructions regarding how to file such a request.

Insurers authorized or admitted to transact business in New Jersey and the New Jersey Insurance Underwriting Association will be required to participate in the program.  Surplus lines insurers and risk retention groups may elect whether or not to participate on a case-by-case basis.  Participation by policyholders is entirely voluntary.

FEMA Extends Deadline for Sandy Disaster Assistance Registration by 30 Days

New Jersey residents affected by Sandy now have until April 1, 2013 to register for individual disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  The deadline extension applies to homeowner, renter and business registration with the Small Business Administration (SBA) for Disaster Loan Assistance.

New Jersey businesses also have until July 31 to apply for SBA economic injury disaster loans.

Shore Businesses to Enjoy Expanded Seasonal Alcoholic Beverage License Term

Because shore businesses were unable to remain open through November 2012 as a result of mandatory evacuations, power outages and other disruptions caused by Sandy, seasonal alcoholic beverage consumption licensees will be permitted to serve alcoholic beverages beginning on March 1 instead of May 1 for the 2013 tourism season.

Seasonal alcoholic beverage licensees will be able to serve alcoholic beverages through November 14, 2013.

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