Hurricane season is over, but many Louisiana residents are still waiting for insurance relief

After the Atlantic hurricane season ended Tuesday, Louisiana lawmakers held a hearing Wednesday to assess insurance complaints from many residents in the southeastern part of the state as they continue to recover from Hurricane Ida, according to a R.It’s the Associated Press.

The Category 4 storm hit the coast on August 29 as one of 21 named storms of this year’s hurricane season, and one of eight that affected the coast, According to NPR.

Residents cited slow responses from insurers, being forced to deal with multiple claims-settlement tools, meaning the process was repeatedly restarted, and sub-offers from companies causing many to actually threaten or sue to ensure they were getting a fair offer.

Among the many affected by the storm was Republican Senator Mike Vessey, who told committees he had waited 90 days to receive an offer from his insurance company for damages to his home.

“Just ignorance is worse than anything else,” Vessi said. “You either get paid or you don’t.” ‘I can not say whether the companies are procrastinating on purpose.’

Because of the extensive damage caused by the storm, state insurance commissioner Jim Donilon gave insurers an additional 30 days in addition to the state’s requirement to contact the person who made the claim within one month. Some lawmakers have questioned the move, speculating that it could contribute to the complaints they were hearing.

Donilon said, however, that most of the complaints he received said that after the first contact from the insurance companies, many claimants experienced a long period of silence while they waited to hear their next steps.

For more reports from the Associated Press, see below.

Louisiana, Hurricane Ida, insurance companies
Louisiana lawmakers are filing complaints from residents who have waited 90 days for an offer from insurance companies to repair Hurricane Ida damage. Above, Josh Montford rests his head in his hand as he passes his home that was flooded in the aftermath of a storm, on September 1, 2021, in Jean Lafitte.
John Loescher/The Associated Press

Frustrated lawmakers urged Donilon to help them come up with ideas to improve the industry’s response to hurricanes. They say they are Seeing the same problems that Louisiana faced after last year’s hurricanes, Laura, Delta, and Zeta.

“It’s so disgusting what we just heard,” said Representative Cathy Edmonston, a Republican from Gonzales. “Obviously something has to be done.”

Donilon said he would suggest some ideas for the regular 2022 legislative session, but did not offer immediate suggestions on how to speed up claims settlement. The Republican insurance regulator urged people in trouble to submit formal complaints to his office and hold open meetings to help people with claims issues.

“The number one complaint is the delay: slow wages and non-payment,” said Doug Quinn, executive director of the nonprofit monitoring group the American Policyholder Association, which tracks insurance issues after IDA.

Donelon said he doesn’t have data yet on the number of property insurance claims that Ida has filed. He said about $10.5 billion has been paid for claims related to Laura, Delta and Zeta companies for 2020.

He and lawmakers also said they hear complaints about an “officer churn,” where people see a shifting group of employees involved in assessing damage to their homes or businesses rather than a fixed point of contact that deals with their claims.

“People call my office and say, I have the third officer and I have to start over,” he said. Senate Insurance Chairman Kirk Talbot, a Republican from River Ridge.

Insurance industry representatives said the state doesn’t have enough controls to deal with Hurricane Ida, and they’ve brought in people from elsewhere to help.

Two of Louisiana’s largest insurers — State Farm Insurance and Allstate Insurance Company — said they closed about 82% of Ida’s damage claims. Allstate reports that it has received 42,000 claims from Ida, and State Farm has more than 53,000. The Louisiana Farm Bureau said it has completed 99% of Ida’s nearly 9,200 claims.

Rodney Braxton, who represents State Farm, defended the company as operating through “just in time” claims.

“I don’t know anyone will ever be satisfied when your house is destroyed, but we are doing our best,” he said.

But closing a claim does not always include payment and does not always mean that claims are fully resolved. Customers can still seek additional payments.

Similar insurance problems plagued the response to Hurricane Laura in southwest Louisiana.

Attorney Cooper Fournier, who said he represents hundreds of landlords who have damaged Laura, said the settlement process established after the hurricane has been instrumental in closing outstanding claims disputes with insurance companies.

But Senator Mike Reese, a Republican from Leesville who represents the districts hit by Laura, said clients should not file a lawsuit to reach satisfactory settlements with their insurers.

“This is unfair to all of these citizens who have been so deeply affected,” Reese said.

Louisiana, Hurricane Ida, insurance companies
Louisiana lawmakers held a hearing Wednesday to address complaints from residents still awaiting an offer from insurance companies to repair Hurricane Ida damage. Above, an electrical substation stands in the wake of Ida on September 4, 2021, on the Grand Isle.
Sean Rayford / Getty Images

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