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Ida victims & contractors say insurers are denying obvious damage and causing other problems

Thousands of people have complained to the La. Department of Insurance
Ida insurance issues
Ida insurance issues
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 7:12 PM CST
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Ida victim Danny Farrell discusses challenges he is dealing with because of insurance company.
Ida victim Danny Farrell discusses challenges he is dealing with because of insurance company.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some homeowners and contractors say the Ida rebuilding process is hampered by insurance company antics. Complaints range from claims that insurers are denying some damage exists to trying to get people to buy supplies from certain businesses.

A modern camper sits in Danny Farrell’s front yard in Hahnville. It is where he, his wife, daughter and two dogs are staying because they cannot live in their damaged brick home.

“This is the living room, and the kitchen and dining room is what took the majority of the water but it just ran down the rafters into, into every room,” said Farrell.

He documented water pouring into his home after Ida damaged the roof.

“We tried to catch it when it first but it just ended up getting worse as the storm went on,” said Farrell.

Now he said he is dealing with a slow and frustrating insurance process.

“Kind of difficult to deal with, they’re harder to get on the phone. The estimate was significantly lower than repair costs from contractors and all the estimates I’ve received. Supplements have been approved,” said Farrell.

He said what the insurance company said it would cost to make repairs is not what estimates he has received from contractors reflect.

“I believe the initial estimate was I think $18,000 or something like that and the roof’s costing for the shed and the home around $30,000 but the repairs on the home to put it back to pre-storm damage is just, I mean they didn’t even give me half of what is needed to do it,” said Farrell.

He said the company, Consolidated Restoration Group decided to put a new roof on for him even though the wrangling with his insurer is not over.

“I’ve actually got Consolidated Restoration that put the roof on the house before the supplement’s even been approved just to, you know, take care of us,” said Farrell. “The supplement on the roof has been submitted for quite some time and it hasn’t gone through the approval process.”

Local contractor Gasper Pumila talks about the hoops insurance companies are making...
Local contractor Gasper Pumila talks about the hoops insurance companies are making policyholders jump through post-Hurricane Ida.(Source: WVUE)

Gasper Pumila owns Consolidated Restoration Group and said the difficulties with dealing with insurers are widespread.

“We’re finding a big disconnect between what the definition of damage is and actual damages that we’re seeing,” said Pumila.

He said he has experienced insurers denying that some roof damage exists when it is obvious the roof was left impaired by the hurricane.

“We had a customer, and we could go over there, and we could pick up the shingles they were not sealed anymore, and this is two months after the storm, you could do this with the shingles. That’s a compromised roof covering if it’s not sealed down it’s not secured. The insurance adjuster at that time said, that did not constitute as damage,” said Pumila.

And there are complaints about insurers using outdated pricing for repairs.

“They used November of 2020 pricing and it took them over a month just to correct that pricing,” said Farrell.

Pumila said, “Like the one customer we had that’s paid from November 2020, at least pay them in the right year.”

He also said insurers are trying to force the use of certain building suppliers.

“Some insurance companies are also overstepping their boundaries by trying to dictate to us where we can and cannot purchase our materials from and then including a discount on there, what they’re paying to the customer but they really need to pay the fair market value, not everybody can use these programs that these insurance companies are putting together. We have to use our own suppliers, we have to take advantage of our credit accounts,” said Pumila.

The post-Ida insurance concerns come as hurricane deductibles are already higher since Hurricane Katrina and insurance premiums are expected to increase next year.

“Deductibles are crazy, really, really crazy,” said Pumila.

He wants Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon to get tougher with insurers.

“I want to know who classifies the definition of the damages, that’s what I’d really like to know, you know, who determines what wind damage is and why does it change from season to season or storm to storm?” said Pumila.

Donelon’s office could not answer immediately whether there are state rules concerning the definition of storm damage. However, it says so far, the department has received

2,388 complaints related to insurers and Hurricane Ida.

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