--New York steps up pressure on insurers after storm
--Cuts time allowed for processing claims by "more than half"
--Introduces report card on industry's handling of storm
(Adds details on industry report card)
By Mia Lamar
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo put new pressure on the insurance industry following superstorm Sandy's devastating sweep through the state, unveiling a rule Thursday that slashes the time insurers have to inspect damaged homes and businesses.
"It is vital that New Yorkers receive their claim settlements as soon as possible, so that they can rebuild their homes, businesses and lives," Mr. Cuomo said in a prepared statement. "There simply is no substitute for speed when it comes to insurance payouts after a storm."
The new rule on processing claims will "cut by more than half" the amount of time insurers have to send adjusters to homes and businesses, the state said. In addition, Mr. Cuomo signed an executive order quickening the temporary licensing of out-of-state adjusters.
The state has estimated that nearly 600,000 homes and businesses in New York have been affected by Sandy, though officials have cautioned that number could rise substantially.
Adding further pressure, the state rolled out a "report card" on the insurance companies handling Sandy-related business and consumer claims, including industry giants Allstate Corp. (ALL), State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.
Most claimants are waiting, on average, six to 11 days for adjusters to get to their homes, according to data released by the state.
Insurance industry leaders in New York said the mandate caught them by surprise. "This is a crisis. The insurance companies are doing everything they can and utilizing every resource they have to help those affected by the storm," said Ellen Melchionni, president of the New York Insurance Association, a trade group representing property insurance companies in New York.
A spokeswoman for State Farm, the largest home and auto insurer in the U.S., said the company was aware of the regulations but hadn't yet reviewed them in detail. To date, the company has received 48,345 home and auto claims from its New York customers. Representatives for Allstate and Nationwide didn't immediately provide comment.
Allstate, the second-largest insurer behind State Farm, on Wednesday estimated its claims from the storm will likely reach nearly $1.3 billion. Nearly 66% of its losses came from New York, the company said.
--Jacob Gershman contributed to this article.
Write to Mia Lamar at firstname.lastname@example.org
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