Today, the National Insurance Crime Bureau announced its updated estimates for the number of damaged vehicles as a result of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the East Coast near the end of 2012. Based off of insurance claims, the updated estimate has been set to 250,500. New York, the state hit the hardest, had a 20,000 increase from 130,000 to 150,000 vehicles damaged.
When asked about Hurricane Sandy in comparison to other natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Irene, The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s Director of Public Affairs Frank Scafidi said, “In terms of insured losses, Hurricane Katrina was the No. 1 costliest catastrophe in the U.S. to date. Sandy will be more costly than Irene, but we do not have a final figure as yet.”
Below is a list of the states that have generated Sandy-related vehicle damage claims:
- New York: 150,000
- New Jersey: 60,000
- Connecticut: 8,000
- Maryland: 5,500
- Massachusetts: 5,000
- Virginia: 4,500
- Ohio: 4,000
- Pennsylvania: 4,000
- Delaware: 2,000
- New Hampshire: 2,000
- North Carolina: 1,500
- District of Columbia: 1,000
- Rhode Island: 1,000
- West Virginia: 1,000
- Maine: 500
- Vermont: 500
These are only preliminary figures, though, and subject to change as claims are processed. There are many vehicles out there that have been damaged by the hurricane, but they are not insured and therefore do not show in the above numbers. Also, the extent of the damage is unknown. A vehicle could have only minor paint scratches or have been flooded, making it unsalvageable.
“The goal is making sure that the titles of those vehicles that have been identified a salvage are properly ‘branded’ as such and that consumers have as much information as possible on damaged vehicles,” said Scafidi when asked about steps being taken to remove irreparable vehicles from circulation.
As some time has passed since the disaster, many Sandy damaged vehicles are being reconditioned and sold throughout the country. While it isn’t illegal to buy or sell flood vehicles, that only applies if the buyer knows it’s a flood car; otherwise, it’s illegal. Consumers need to be aware that although vehicles may be advertised for sale, it is possible they were affected by Sandy.
Scafidi offered this piece of advice when talking about buying a vehicle post-disaster, “Before you hand over money for a used vehicle–especially if the price is extremely attractive–get as much information about that vehicle as you can. We offer a free VIN check service, and there are private vehicle history services where consumers can buy a comprehensive history report.”
Salvage vehicle scams and post-disaster repair schemes are very common in the months after a disaster, and it’s important to pay close attention. Make sure to only work with licensed and insured contractors, and get more than one estimate. Get everything in writing including the cost, work, and schedule. Ask for references and check them out. Don’t sign a blank contract. Don’t pay or sign a completion contract until the work is actually completed. And, last of all, don’t file a fraudulent claim. By misrepresenting damages, your insurance may be voided.