A Staten Island couple said their insurance company short-changed them after superstorm Sandy destroyed their home, and then used their house in a commercial.
In October, Sheila Traina, 64, and her husband, Dominic, 66, had evacuated their home in New Dorp Beach in response to warnings from local authorities about the storm.
Traina said a neighbor who had stayed behind called and told them the wind had knocked the roof off their two-story home but their insurer, Allstate, said the damage to their home was due to flooding.
"He said the house came down before the storm, came down and water finished it off," Traina said of her neighbor.
Allstate told her it was storm surge that caused the damage, she said.
The insurance company offered the Trainas, who did not have flood insurance, about $10,000 for the damages. They say the amount is well short of the $280,000 for which their home and its contents were insured.
"We have a witness," Traina said. "If you witnessed a murder, somebody would get convicted I would think."
The storm's winds also knocked down a 30-foot tall tree across the street, Traina said.
She said she has refused to accept the $10,000 and is planning to hire an attorney to fight for a settlement that matches the value of her home.
In the meantime, the Trainas are staying in a family member's home that is three miles away. Her husband is retired but they have income from his late mother's home, which they are renting.
Traina, an administrative secretary, said she had hoped to retire next year, but her plans are on hold until they can rebuild their home.
A spokeswoman from Allstate said the company is "committed to resolving the matter in accordance with the policy they purchased from our company."
"Allstate is always focused on ensuring our customers are completely satisfied," the spokeswoman said. "In major disasters such as Sandy, we are often the first on the scene providing financial and emotional support."
The Trainas said they previously had flood insurance, provided by the U.S. government's National Flood Insurance Program, but their payments were more than the reimbursement amounts they received for previous incidents.
Traditional private homeowners policies, such as those of Allstate, do not cover flood losses, the company said.
"We encourage our customers to consider flood insurance to protect themselves in ways that would not be covered under a homeowner's policy," Allstate said.
What the Trainas said upset them further was that an image of their damaged home was used in a commercial for Allstate, as first reported by the newspaper, the Staten Island Advance.
After their Thanksgiving dinner, Traina said her husband and grandchildren were watching a football game when her grandchildren said they saw their home in a television advertisement.
"It was just a picture of our chair and our kitchen window but it was noticeable what they were showing," she said. "It was not a happy Thanksgiving after that."
Allstate said the advertisement "showed general images of the destruction caused by Sandy including a partial image of the Trainas' home."
"It does not reference them as customers or in any way imply they are satisfied with the status of their claim. We regret any concern this advertisement may have caused the Trainas and images of their home will not be included in Allstate's advertising," the company said.
Allstate said it has made almost $1.1 billion in claim payments and continues to work with local Allstate agencies and The Allstate Foundation's support of non-profit organizations.
Debra Hernandez, who lives on the same street as the Trainas, said besides flooding in her basement and a large shed that was destroyed, her home was spared.
"They paid me a decent amount for my structure so I'm more than satisfied," said Hernandez, who bought her home a year and a half ago. "What I claimed was pretty close to what I asked for."
Hernandez said she received a net of $2,700 after paying her $5,000 deductible.
Hernandez said she purchased flood insurance, and received a reimbursement for her flooded basement.
"Obviously I did not lose as much as other people," Hernandez said.