Just before this year’s elections, a superstorm approached the North East. Such were the fears of disruption and damage, there was even talk as to whether it would be possible to hold the election. In the event, the voters were able to get to the polling stations but there was an amazing amount of damage. The storm may have been given a name which tends to suggest someone gentle, but Sandy proved to be a major natural disaster. Although not matching Katrina for loss of life thanks to the mandatory evacuation orders, many areas along the coast were flattened. We therefore come to the endless reruns of a traditional dispute. The majority of private insurers have now opted out of providing flood cover, but many still offer cover for wind damage. So when home owners return to their property and find it severely damaged, was this the wind or the flood?
Based on the experience in cases following Katrina, this is a chicken-and-egg problem. Which came first: the wind or the flood? So let’s say the basic structure of the home is still standing, there may be a line around the inside of the rooms showing the height to which water reached. If this is very close to the floor, the odds favor the bulk of the damage was caused by the wind. But if the water obviously reached into the upper stories, all claims relating to the ground and lower floors may be denied. Claimants will be directed to the home insurance coverage they hopefully bought through the federal safety net. But there will be real problems of proving cause and effect should the home now be a pile of rubble. Obviously, as this is significantly lower, the fact there may a water line on some fragments or on all the pile is not significant because who is to say whether this happened before or after the home fell. Indeed, this may be stronger evidence the wind was responsible for the demolition. If a rush of water hit the building and broke it down, the force of the water would have carried the pieces away rather than leaving them as a neat pile. Except does the same argument not apply to the wind? If the wind is strong enough to lift the roof and knock down the walls, it should be strong enough to blow smaller pieces away. The more everything is left in a single heap of rubble, the longer the argument is likely to go unresolved.