Monday, November 14, 2005

'Slow Rolling' in Mississippi

Does this sound familiar, Floridians? From the Dallas Morning News:
"Nobody has gotten anything," Mr. LePage said as he watched workers carry out once-beloved items from his home. "We're totally dissatisfied with the progress on the insurance. Anything to keep from paying."

Nearly three months after Katrina, frustrations are mounting for residents whose homes and possessions were laid waste by the storm. Like the LePages, most want to get on with their lives, but they've had difficulty reaching anything more than a recording at their insurance companies. They've had trouble getting meetings with adjusters, and they've yet to see money paid out on claims.

Many believe the insurance companies are quibbling over damage claims that should be paid, and lawsuits are mounting as a result.

"Here we are still waiting," said Mr. LePage's daughter Laura Ann, whose New Orleans East home was flooded with about three feet of water. "You can't do anything. You're just on hold, really."

Dicky Scrubbs, the Mississippi lawyer representing thousands of Katrina claimants, told the Morning News, "The delays are no accident. Insurers are practicing a technique known as 'slow rolling,' procrastinating in making payments in hopes that claimants grow tired, desolate and more likely to accept what is offered."
"They do this limbo thing. Let it cool down, let these people get desperate. These people have no jobs, no insurance," said Mr. Scruggs, who is fighting his own battle with insurers over the loss of his Mississippi home to Katrina. "The insurance companies vacillate on making any commitment at all, hoping it'll all die down and the news channel will change subjects. This isn't their first rodeo."
A Biloxi evacuee we've met, who is now living in Gulf Breeze, tells anyone who will listen that his insurance company is refusing to pay.

"I evacuated to higher ground just a couple of blacks away," he says. "I actually saw my house ripped apart by wind. Three hours later, the flooding water moved what was left off the foundation. Now, the insurance company is saying it was all flood damage, no wind. They've refused to pay more than two thousand dollars."

One wonders what he would think to learn that his insurance company probably is making money off his misery. According to the Dallas newspaper:
Douglas Heller, executive director of the National Flood Insurance Program, says delays actually make money for the insurance industry.

"A month long delay in claims for 50 destroyed homes could bring in more than $30,000 in investment income to the underwriter," he said. Also, the "longer the delay, the more likely homeowners will settle for less."
To date, "only about 5,000 of the 225,000 possible claims have been settled for both Hurricane Katrina and Rita."

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