Homeowners having tough time

MAJOR DAMAGE — The Jim Beam home in Lake Charles, La., is just one example of the devastation caused by Hurricane Laura for which insurance companies are failing to pay homeowners sufficient funds to make complete repairs.

Homeowners in Southwest Louisiana are trying to get adequate insurance payments following Hurricanes Laura and Delta, but they are getting the runaround and experiencing delaying tactics from their insurance companies. It’s no surprise that attorney advertisements offering to help are popping up everywhere.

I asked a number of knowledgeable people why they thought insurance companies were giving homeowners a difficult time. One explanation I received indicated that those companies failed to adequately reinsure themselves and are advising their adjusters and others involved in settlements to play hard ball.

Makes sense to me since my experience following serious damage to my home from Hurricane Laura on Aug. 27 appears to be typical of what other homeowners are experiencing. Here is how it has gone for me since the storm hit.

I got a list of contractors recommended by my local agent and tried to call each one. I was only able to leave a message with two or three of them, and never heard back from anyone until much later. The insurance company did pay my hotel bills when I evacuated to Lafayette.

An insurance adjuster finally got to town to put together a damage estimate and said I would get it in four or five days. When I still hadn’t received it weeks later, I filed a complaint with the state Department of Insurance. The estimate then quickly made it by Oct. 3.

While waiting for that estimate and beginning to feel desperate for help, I asked my son-in-law what I should do next. Thankfully, Dr. Joe had already contacted Striker Roofing and Construction Co. of Dallas and Houston. I had lost about half of the front of my roof, and Striker got right to work repairing the roof and then installing a new roof.

The insurance company estimate on all my repairs totaled $17,772, and I had a $9,855 deductible. So I assumed the company felt it owed me only $7,917. It has so far made three payments totaling $7,422, and sent me an email asking if I was satisfied with my claim settlement. It is far from settled.

I paid Striker $23,000 for the roof repairs and the new roof. I paid another company $1,500 to remove debris from the yard to the curb for later pickup. Another company stripped my dining room that had water damage for $1,500.

Striker has repaired my dining room and completed some other work on the front of the house for $7,340. A new floor in that dining room is expected to cost over $1,000, and I have had to pay electrician and air conditioning bills. My hurricane fence needs repairs and there is damage to a workshop out back.

While waiting for that insurance estimate, the cost of materials, particularly roofing, skyrocketed. It was then that I learned it’s common practice for contractors to submit supplemental estimates to insurance companies. Striker submitted one that indicated I was entitled to another $30,000 from my company.

Calls to the person handling my claim seldom got through, but I left messages. Most calls were never returned. When someone did call back, I asked why there was a delay on the supplemental estimate the company received from Striker.

“We need more detail,” the lady said. Striker’s local representative said he would get the insurance company the information it needed.

After another long wait, I learned the company wanted details that are being put together by someone at Striker’s home office. It was more detail than the company’s local representative could provide.

It’s apparently another stalling tactic, and goodness knows what’s next.

Throughout all of this waiting game, I haven’t heard anything from my local agent after his agency sent me that list of contractors. I left a message there, but my call was never returned.

I realize local insurance agents don’t get involved in settling damage claims, but you would, at the very least, expect a call asking how things are going.

The residents of Southwest Louisiana definitely deserve better than they are getting from their insurance companies. I have spoken to a number of people and haven’t found anyone yet who said their insurance settlements have gone well.

And yes, another hurricane called Delta came through this same area and we had to evacuate for three days. I saved the hotel, food and other travel bills in hopes of filing another claim. However, I understand that there is a $1,000 deductible in there somewhere, and those costs weren’t that high.

We didn’t experience these delays and inadequate payments following Hurricane Rita in 2005. I had a different agent with the same company at the time that treated me extremely well.

I was immediately given $5,000 for expenses to help us until the claim was settled. That money served us well when we had to relocate to Shreveport and then to Lafayette for weeks following the hurricane.

This time, I was on my own. And for the most part, I still am after paying homeowner insurance premiums for more years than I can count.

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