A few companies have pushed hard for quicker closures.
The USAA General Indemnity Co. has closed 83 percent of its relatively modest 3,261 Sandy flood claims, placing it second after Allstate in terms of the completion rate among companies handling a substantial number of storm claims.
Travelers Group has closed a less-stellar 58 percent of its 18,215 claims, but it also advanced more than $223 million to customers whose settlements have yet to be finalized. When those partial payouts are taken into account, it ranks among the companies that have paid the most to customers, with a total distribution approaching $602 million.
The Hartford Fire Insurance Co., according to FEMA, has closed a similar 56 percent of its 10,693 claims but has advanced much less in partial payments. So far, it has paid out just under $230 million, or an average of $23,588 per submitted claim, not including those later closed without payment. That ranks it alongside Selective in terms of the least money advanced so far when divided by the total number of claims. By comparison, Allstate's average payout per submitted claim is $50,845.
Hartford spokesman Thomas Hambrick said he couldn't discuss the company's handling of claims in detail, but added, "We take this work seriously and are working with FEMA to resolve flood claims from Storm Sandy as quickly as possible."
Drawing comparisons between the companies isn't entirely clear-cut. The statistics don't take into account factors like a company's mix of business or level of exposure to the storm. It is possible for an insurer to have paid less money to customers to date simply because its policyholders suffered less damage, or had purchased less coverage.
In a letter to New Jersey's congressional delegation this month, Gov. Christie blamed National Flood Insurance Program rules for leading to payment delays. He said the program's paperwork requirements were "extraordinarily extensive, requiring up to 12 hours for an adjuster to complete a single proof of loss form."
"Claimants whose houses have washed away are provided large and daunting forms requiring an itemization of each and every item lost as well as potentially requiring receipts and serial numbers for individual items," he said.
FEMA officials say they have tried to speed the claims process by giving insurers servicing flood policies additional flexibility to make partial payments.
Mulvihill reported from Haddonfield, N.J.
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