Story by Pam Robinson
Long Beach residents concerned about rebuilding their homes after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy can hear from a New Orleans attorney with plenty of experience in hurricane damage at Lindell Elementary School starting at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Attorney John W. Houghtaling II, who lived in Huntington before the family moved to New Orleans when he was 11, reviewed New York State laws on deadlines imposed on insurance companies, paperwork and the need for homeowners to push for settlements they believe they're entitled to at a town forum in Huntington in November.
He joined other experts who warned residents about settling too easily or naively with insurance companies, while a contractors' nonprofit organization discussed repairs, bankers talked about financing, and the town building department reviewed permit issues.
Houghtaling emphasized the legal responsibility of insurance companies to pay homeowners according to a legal schedule and said that they are required to pay out certain amounts of money even if the homeowner insists on more. And homeowners were warned not to sign releases if they weren't satisfied with the offer.
Playing off slogans, he warned that while agencies liked to portray themselves as good neighbors, keeping customers in their good hands, adjusters and insurers are "misinforming people and telling people things that just aren't true," he said.
Homeowners need to pay attention to whether damage is attributed to wind or flooding because that affects who pays for it.
"You're going to be told a lot that isn't true," he said. "The chronology of damage is very important," he said.
Gauthier, Houghtaling & Williams, has filed class action and other suits stemming from the hurricanes that clobbered New Orleans in recent years, handling thousands of claims by businesses and homeowners. As managing partner, he said his firm never turns away homeowners in need of legal assistance.
John Hogan, president of the local chapter of the
National Association of the Remodeling Industry, said he'd heard complaints from different sides, from stalled decisions on repairs to homeowners trying to get insurance to cover unrelated repairs.
Houghtaling was invited to speak Thursday at Lindell School, at 601 Lindell Blvd., by Long Beach attorney and former City Council member Denis Kelly. Some of the topics his talk will cover include if homeowners are entitled to unconditional payments, whether they should get an independent inspection, taking notes of disaster chronology, the need to know that 15/15 Day Rule, and asking for help to untangle insurance company red tape.