Insurance commissioner launches new mediation program to help frustrated Hurricane Ida victims

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:17 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Joel Orellana has obvious Hurricane Ida damage to his home in Jefferson Parish.

“The roof was damaged about 85% of it and we a little, small leaks inside, the gutters were damaged, our fence was damaged in the rear,” said Orellana.

He is not pleased with his insurance company’s response, so far.

“They took about 20 days for I guess to come here, they looked at it,” said Orellana.

And he said just days ago he received a digital communication from his insurer.

“Last week, they sent me an email with the estimate. They’re not covering our roof, they’re giving us a little bit of money for the fence, a little bit of money for gutters and a little bit for the paint on the inside, but mainly real thing my roof is damaged like really bad, and they don’t want to even cover the materials,” said Orellana.

Many others are dissatisfied with their insurers after Hurricane Ida. So, Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has created the Hurricane Ida Mediation Program and it is strictly for residential policyholders.

Two firms, Mediation & Arbitration Professional Systems (MAPS) in Metairie or Perry Dampf Dispute Solutions in Baton Rouge will conduct 90-minute mediation sessions for a flat fee of $600.

“That would be paid for by insurers but if an individual, a policyholder was desirous of having a mediation that his insurer was not willing to pay for there’s nothing to prohibit that individual and his or her insurer from funding the cost of that mediation,” said Donelon.

He was asked why the new program is not mandatory for insurers.

“Because of the added expense to the system. We are being stressed, our market is being stressed significantly by this event,” said Donelon.

He said this week he learned of an insurer that is withdrawing from writing business in the state.

Still, Donelon believes the mediation program will be beneficial to lots of homeowners who are having disputes with their insurers.

“A mediator in a relaxed conference room rather than courtroom atmosphere with give and take and discussion and questioning back and forth can sometimes make the situation more understandable and resolve disputes because a lot of the angst that policyholders have, in my opinion, is the uncertainty about whether or not they are being treated fairly,” said Donelon.

Orellana thinks the program is needed.

“I think so because right now what we’re looking at is every day we try to call the insurance company. I leave about five to six voicemails every day, they never return my call and what I’m looking at is trying to get a lawyer to try to do something else because I have to repair my damage,” said Orellana.

Either the policyholder or the insurer can request the mediation in writing and either party is free to accept or reject the invitation. Donelon says policyholders can request the mediation through their insurers.

And Donelon says as always, people who are having problems with their insurance companies should contact his office, the Louisiana Department of Insurance.

The program will run through June 30, 2022.

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