Their insurance company’s slogan is “The Good Hands People,” but a Staten Island couple who were so devastated by Superstorm Sandy that President Barack Obama visited them personally says their insurance company is failing them miserably. To add insult to injury, they say, their insurer, Allstate, used images of their home and their business to promote itself as an insurance company that cares.
“We paid on our home, our business and our cars,” Dominic Traina told PIX11 News about the insurance premiums he and his wife Sheila have paid to Allstate Insurance over the 43 years they have had policies with the Illinois-based insurer.
Now, though, they say they feel doubly betrayed over Allstate’s offer for reimbursement for their Sandy losses. “We lost our store,” Sheila Traina said. “It was our retirement.” The couple also lost their two-story home, which is seven doors up from their store, a beachside deli on Cedar Grove Lane in New Dorp Beach.
The couple evacuated during Sandy, but said that a neighbor who stayed behind called them during the storm to tell them that Sandy’s high winds had blown off parts of the roof of their home, significantly compromising its strength.
The friend called hours later to tell them that the street was starting to flood. The storm surge ended up finishing off their home, and inundating the ground floors of all of their neighboring homes, but when the Trainas filed a claim, Allstate offered them only a flood damage payment of $10,000. A wind damage payment would have been much higher. Allstate continues to deny payment for wind damage, despite the couple’s eyewitness.
The Trainas were insulted by the offer they got, and are now considering hiring an attorney to help them continue their dispute with Allstate. Howeve,r they say that it’s even more demoralizing how images of their store and their home are being used by Allstate to promote its Superstorm Sandy claims payment efforts.
“He’s an agent of good,” the baritone voice of celebrity spokesman Dennis Haysbert says in an Allstate commercial that the company released in time for Thanksgiving. It thanks Staten Island agent Frank Vento for his efforts to help his clients recover from Sandy, and the visual of the ad is of Vento walking past the Traina’s deli and past their home, among other hard hit places in their neighborhood.
PIX11 went to Vento’s office, which is about a half-mile from the Traina’s home and business, to get his response.
“First of all, I’m not their agent,” he told PIX11 News. “So i don’t know the particulars of that case. Secondly, I’m not authorized to speak for Allstate.”
He directed PIX11 News to the company’s corporate spokesperson for the New York region, Jaclyn Darrohn. She provided a written statement that did not respond to the Traina’s situation specifically, but spoke generally about Allstate’s superstorm claim efforts. “We continue to work with customers affected by Sandy and seek to settle claims promptly and fairly,” said Darrohn.
Regarding the Allstate commercial that features images of the Trainas’ home and store which the couple says have not been paid out fairly, Allstate said, through Darrohn, “All Allstate commercials are produced in accordance with all applicable advertising laws.”
That response to the commercial did not favorably impress Sheila and Dominic Traina, or anyone in their family. “If they help people, where is it? Where’s the money to help my brother?” asked Phillip Traina, who spoke with PIX11 News as he and a friend cleared out Dominic and Sheila’s deli for scrap metal Thursday morning. “My brother’s poor now,” Phillip Traina said. “He lost his whole livelihood over here.”
The Trainas are hopeful that they’ll eventually get the help they’ve paid for. A very conservative estimate of their premiums over 43 years indicates they have paid at least $42,000 to Allstate, and nobody is denying that they have been reliable bill payers over the decades.
Still, for now, the Trainas are feeling neglected. Said Sheila, “We are always the last ones to get help around here.”