Louisiana Insurance Company Failures Stall Recovery Efforts
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon Issues 3rd Bulletin to Insurers
Airmen from the 159th Civil Engineering’s Debris Clearance Package clear rubble from a roadway in downtown Lake Charles, La., Aug. 30, 2020. The Louisiana Air National Guard Airmen arrived with heavy equipment shortly after Hurricane Laura’s landfall to clear roadways of the hardest-hit areas in and around Calcasieu Parish, La. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Farrell) CC-BY 2.0
After receiving numerous complaints from Louisiana property owners, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon issued a third bulletin reminding insurers of their obligations to policyholders.
According to Bulletin 2021-03, insurers are failing to provide copies of policies when policyholders ask for them. In addition, many are still having trouble getting proof of loss documentation needed to process their claims.
“We’ve heard from policyholders in the Lake Charles area that many people are still having trouble engaging contractors, crews, and materials to make repairs on homes, businesses, and places of worship damaged by hurricanes Laura and Delta,” said Donelon in a media release. “I am committed to making insurers understand the extraordinary nature of the 2020 hurricane season and that working with policyholders is the only way forward for a strong recovery in the state of Louisiana.”
However, the bipartisan group Real Reform Louisiana has said that issuing bulletins isn’t enough and that Donelon needs to do more to hold insurance companies accountable.
“People are suffering, they’re tired, they just want to go home. They just want to reopen their business,” said Real Reform Louisiana Executive Director Eric Holl. “[Insurance companies] are hoping that they can wear folks down and get them to a point where they’d rather take some of what they are owed rather than hold out and try to get everything that they need to be made whole.”
With the 180-day file dates for victims of Hurricane Delta and Hurricane Zeta to submit their proof of losses to their insurance companies approaching quickly (April 7 and April 26, respectively), many victims have become increasingly frustrated. According to Commissioner Donelon’s bulletin, many policyholders are complaining that their insurers are not providing full copies of their policies - which is required under Louisiana law.
“They’re using delay tactics to try to force small businesses and homeowners to accept settlements that are much lower than what they need to rebuild their homes,” Holl said.
Some Lake Charles residents have become desperate enough to take to social media in an attempt to generate outrage and push insurance companies to do the right thing. Lake Charles resident Tara Parks turned to the social media app TikTok when her insurance company disputed estimates that water damage to her home following Hurricane Laura would cost more than $41,000. The company sent its own engineering firm out months after Laura’s landfall, and eventually offered her $5,622 for damage from Hurricane Laura, and $2,411 for Hurricane Delta, in spite of previous documentation showing that her home needed gutting due to roof damage and water intrusion in all of the walls.
However, after one of Parks’ videos received nearly 600,000 views, Parks’ adjusting firm called her asking what could be done to make her home livable again.
“I’m fortunate to have a social platform, but what about everyone who doesn’t?” Parks asked.