Hurricane victims sound off over insurance issues; Gov. Edwards & lawmakers seek insurance reforms

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 9:39 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2022 at 9:40 PM CDT
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Damage from Hurricane Ida in Louisiana
Damage from Hurricane Ida in Louisiana(Briana Kent)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana suffered catastrophic hurricanes over the past two years: Hurricane Laura in 2021 and Hurricane Ida in 2021 and some property owners say because of their insurance companies they are experiencing a different kind of storm.

Governor John Bel Edwards and some New Orleans area legislators held a round table discussion with hurricane victims who are dissatisfied with their insurers’ response.

Kerry Andersen took part. She said the home she owned in Lake Charles where Laura hit was heavily damaged, and her insurer has yet to cover all the damages.

“They’re making it so hard that it wears you down physically, emotionally, your savings are drained. You don’t have a home,” said Andersen.

She has not given up.

“I am still fighting the insurance company. The repairs to my home are $317,000 and State Farm ultimately gave me $90,000, so clearly not enough to fix it, not enough to buy another one. I lost all the equity in my home when I sold it,” Andersen stated.

She is now renting in New Orleans.

“I’m living here but I still don’t have furniture. I’m in a house full of boxes literally I don’t even have a couch,” said Andersen.

Ida victim Kelli April also shared her months of dealing with her insurer with state officials.

“I gave them until the end of January to make an offer or pay what’s owed. They’ve sent out two field adjusters. The first one didn’t even go on the roof, we had a hole in our roof,” she said.

Edwards says policyholders deserve the full benefit of the premiums they have paid.

“It just seems like there is a concerted effort by insurance companies knowing that most people don’t have the capacity to fight back, that they will simply give up at some point, just to delay and to minimize what’s being offered, so that they just quit,” said Edwards.

Edwards wants insurance reforms approved this legislative session and so do many lawmakers.

“It is confusing in the statutes of Louisiana today exactly what the bad faith penalties are on insurance companies, how much they are and when they’re triggered. We need to simplify that,” said Edwards.

Rep. Kyle Green, D-Marrero, was present at the meeting.

“We have to make sure that the law is strengthened to hold the insurance companies accountable, and we’ve heard stories today that there’s really no mechanism in place that will actually make them be honest,” said Green.

Rep. Royce Duplessis was also in attendance to hear directly from policyholders.

“The stories don’t change, insurance companies put up more and more roadblocks for homeowners who have paid their premiums for years on end,” said Duplessis.

Some of the storm victims said they had no choice but to seek legal help.

“I tried to go through the process without an attorney--you should not have to hire an attorney to get your policy paid out on,” said Andersen.

She said they are not trying to get anything they do not deserve.

“We’re not trying to get anything extra here, we’re not looking to make money. We just want to be made whole again according to the terms of policies that we’ve paid for years and years on time,” said Andersen.

Roszell Gadson of State Farm Public Affairs said in an email to FOX 8:

“We can’t speak to the specifics of any claim due to our customer privacy policy. As an organization, we take pride in our customer service and are committed to paying what we owe, promptly, courteously, and efficiently. Each claim is unique and handled based on its own individual merits. We encourage any customer who has questions about their claim to reach out to us directly.”

On top of hurricane victims who say they are not being made whole by their insurers, insurance premiums are going up for a lot of people and there are concerns that some residents may just give up in Louisiana and leave the state.

“Especially if you have multiple natural disasters in a short period of time, if the same people are going through this process over and over again, they may just through their hands up and say, you know what, I have to go somewhere else. We don’t want that, the people in Louisiana, they want to be here, they’re good, generous, decent people and they’re resilient but there’s a limit to what anybody can go through and so we’re worried about the cumulative impact of all of this,” said Edwards.

As for Andersen, she is not interested in being a homeowner again, at least for now.

“I don’t know that I could ever buy a house again, to be honest with you. I can’t go through this again,” she said.

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