The purpose is to help to determine whether or not damage reports had been edited by engineering contractors.
An order has now been issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Brown to insurance companies that requires them to submit massive quantities of additional records related to the damage investigated following Superstorm Sandy, which could help to find out whether or not engineering contractors had edited the reports that they had made in order to inaccurately reduce the payouts that were issued to hundreds – or possibly thousands – of victims of that catastrophe.
A tremendous number of structural engineers were dispatched by the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the storm.
According to Judge Brown, when it comes to improper editing of reports, “These unprincipled practices may be widespread.” This was a response to the claims by lawyers representing approximately 1,500 homeowners that some of the engineering firms that had been hired for the inspection of the damage produced falsified reports that would provide skeptical insurance companies the evidence that they would require to deny claims on flood and property policies.
Now insurance companies must submit this evidence so that it can be more closely studied by the courts.
Though lawyers and homeowners insurance customers, alike, have been asserting that there have been doctored engineering reports, the issue drew the attention of the judge in New York when a Long Island family managed to be able to come up with evidence that the engineer who had specifically examined their own property had later been directed by a supervisor to alter the findings that were initially made. The initial findings had stated that irreparable structural damage had resulted from flooding from Superstorm Sandy. That part of the report was later changed as a result of the supervisor’s instructions, said the Long Island family.
The attorney general in New York has now launched a probe into the issue and FEMA has made a request to its inspector general to open an investigation.
This is not the first time that claims of this nature have arisen after a tremendous catastrophe has been left behind by a storm. Following Hurricane Katrina, homeowners had made similar claims about altered engineering reports and some insurance companies were accused of attempting to place the blame for the damage on the high winds of the 2005 hurricane, instead of the flooding, as the wind damage was not covered by the typical homeowners insurance policy.