The Governor went to Lake Charles and talked about insurance. Can he make filing a claim easier?
Gov. John Bel Edwards visited this hurricane-battered city on Friday to discuss an issue that just about everyone here may agree on: changing state law to tighten restrictions on insurers after storms. After Hurricanes Laura and Delta devastated southwest Louisiana in 2020, legions of homeowners fought with their insurance companies to have their claims paid at what they considered a sufficient amount. Many have blamed insurers for holding back the region’s recovery. Edwards heard from some of them at a forum at the Lake Charles Civic Center, including one woman who ended up calling out her insurer on TikTok videos – a tactic that actually worked. Residents at the forum described having to face multiple adjusters and what they describe as delay tactics. They urged him to follow through on efforts to change state law. In the city’s most prominent example, the biggest office tower in Lake Charles remains out of commission with dozens of blown-out windows more than a year and a half after Laura as its owners battle their insurers.theadvocate.com
Meeting were also held throughout Southern Louisiana.
Similar meetings were recently held in southeast Louisiana, which was hit hard by Hurricane Ida in August. Ida and Laura were both among the strongest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the state. Proposals being considered by the Legislature include increasing penalties for bad-faith actions by insurers and creating a database of registered insurance adjusters. Two state senators from the Lake Charles area favoring reforms, Mark Abraham and Jeremy Stine, joined the governor along with state Rep. Ed Larvadain, who is sponsoring some of the legislation. The governor compared insurers who refuse to pay legitimate claims to contractors who commit fraud. “The guy takes the money and never comes back,” Edwards said. “What is the difference between that and an insurance company that charges you premiums year after year after year after year, and is also obligated to fix your roof and doesn’t pay the claim to fix your roof?”
Part of the problem has been two big and expensive storms in two years meaning many are looking for insurance help in an industry that wants to stay solvent.
Prior to Ida, Laura was on track to become the second most costly disaster in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. As of September, there had been $9.1 billion paid claims or reserves on reported claims related to Laura. By the start of January, that number was $10.5 billion for Ida. Attempts to tighten restrictions on insurers have come and gone at the Legislature, sometimes falling victim to strong lobbying from the industry and arguments that pushing the companies too hard would result in some firms abandoning Louisiana – and possibly even higher premiums. Lawmakers at Friday’s event acknowledged those concerns. But the real-world experiences of many in the Lake Charles area have left them smoldering. Residents have described epic battles that they suspect were designed to wear them down and force them to accept less than what they believe they were owed. Tara Parks began posting the TikTok videos in December 2020 showing her gutted house, and they certainly got her insurer’s attention. A large tree had fallen through her house, which left her family living with a combination of friends and in a camper. Not long after the videos, an insurance executive called her. “They were like, ‘What can we do to make it right?” said Parks, a 35-year-old mother of four who lives in Lake Charles. “And I was like, ‘Well, let me tell you.’” She received the money she needed for repairs and eventually moved back into her damaged house. Repairs remain ongoing, and she still has to wash dishes in the bathtub and cook on an electric skillet. “I didn’t want to live in the camper anymore because my daughter was having all these health issues,” said Parks, an art teacher at an elementary school.
It is a shame you have to go shaming the company to get action. I had a bit of a fight with my insurer which I lost. It was a minor amount that they could have covered just to make a customer happy. But they hid behind “rules.”