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Hurricane Ike Insurance Claims Response Said to be Slow

Sep 23, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Insurance companies are asking policyholders for patience in the wake of Hurricane Ike, as it could be days before many  are contacted by adjusters.  Though thousands of adjusters and special catastrophe claims handlers have fanned out across hurricane stricken areas in Texas and Louisiana, the shear scope of the disaster is slowing down the process.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that some adjusters are having trouble visiting policyholders because of fuel shortages throughout the Hurricane Ike damage area.  Authorities in some of the worst-hit areas, such of Galveston, are also restricting access.  Some policyholders in those areas haven't even been able to file claims yet.

Allstate Insurance is telling Texas policyholders that it could take 2 to 5 days for an adjuster to visit their home after filing a claim.  Farmers is telling its policy holders to expect a response time ranging from 4 to 7 days.

By law, companies have to show up at a home within 15 days after receiving notice  of a claim, according to the Texas Department of Insurance.  However, if an insurance company asks for more information, the 15-day clock is reset.  Companies can get 45 more days if they give notice explaining why, 30 days if arson is suspected and another 15 days if state regulators allow for more time because of a major natural disaster.

So far, state regulators have not extended the statutory response time in Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle.  Policyholders who don't hear from their adjuster within five days of filing a claim should call the Texas Department of Insurance. complaint line at 800-252-3439.

When Hurricane Ike blasted ashore on September 13 as a Category 2 storm, it had sustained winds of 110 miles an hour, and a storm surge as high as 20 feet.  Many communities on the Texas Gulf Coast, including Houston and Galveston, sustained significant damage, and flooding was reported as far away as Mississippi.  Even as the storm weakened and moved inland, it was still a force to be reckoned with.  Damage from high winds and heavy rain was reported as far away as the Midwest and Ohio Valley.

The Insurance Information Institute’s preliminary estimate said the storm could  result in more than $11 billion of claims.  That would make Ike the third most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew.  In Texas, State Farm, the state's largest insurer, said it had already received 50,000 claims. Farmers had more than 40,000 claims already filed in Texas.  The numbers are expected to climb even higher as residents who evacuated return home.

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