Weeks after Hurricane Ida ravaged her condo in Terrytown, Linda Davis’ insurance company, USAA, sent an adjuster to inspect the damage.
Wind-driven rain had penetrated the roof of her two-story unit, soaking the insulation in the walls and attic, causing the ceiling to collapse onto her upstairs bed. Much of the condo had to be taken down to its posts.
When the 72-year-old received her settlement from the USAA a few weeks later, the payment was so small she barely recorded what it was for: just $ 1,300 to pay for new drywall, from the insulation and carpet, among other needs inside the condo.
When she tried to get the USAA to reconsider, she was passed among a series of experts who rarely answered her calls.
Stuck in a pattern of waiting and unable to get answers from the USAA, Linda and her 76-year-old husband, Jon Jeffry Davis, felt stranded, living in a house with no insulation to protect them from the punitive southern climate. of Louisiana.
However, their fortunes changed after contacting a public claims adjuster, Ted Patestos, co-owner of Texas-based Smart Claims Public Adjusting. He performed his own appraisal of the property and determined that the condo had suffered damage in excess of $ 100,000.
After a round of haggling, the USAA agreed to pay the elderly couple their maximum policy limit of about $ 43,000 – a 3,200% increase from their original offer – and to cover an additional $ 8,700. in additional living expenses.
From Lake Charles to New Orleans, countless families in storm-ravaged southern Louisiana face similar challenges rebuilding themselves after being put down by their insurers. The issue is expected to drive a host of consumer protection proposals in the legislative session starting in March.
When Steve Kenny first received a check from his insurer for damage from Hurricane Ida, he thought he would finally have the money to fix his St. Câ¦
Often, policyholders frustrated by their insurers turn to a lawyer to defend their case. Less well-known are public adjusters, who perform their own damage assessment on behalf of policyholders to determine whether the insurance company’s estimates are correct.
âWe are a lawyer, a spokesperson, for the insured, to make sure that the process is handled in a fair and compliant manner, and that the insured has his loss considered in a fair and precise manner,â Patestos said.
A spokesperson for the USAA declined to comment on the details of Davis’ claim, but said that “the USAA is well known for its exceptional claims service.”
Linda Davis thought the USAA – which boasts of “proudly serving millions of military personnel and families” – would take care of her and her husband, an Air Force veteran who spent 35 years in the military. Gretna police, in case of need.
But after Ida, she no longer thinks that the USAA has the backs of the veterans.
âI don’t feel like they’re there for their members when they advertise on TV,â said Linda Davis. “It’s been awful, and I don’t like to complainâ¦ I wouldn’t recommend USAA to anyone.”
Four months into Hurricane Ida, the Davisians are waiting for a check from the USAA overnight, but life since the storm has been trying for the elderly couple. Without insulation, the temperature in their condo fluctuates with the weather. A brush with near-freezing temperatures earlier this month worried Linda for Jon’s health. In November, he spent several weeks in intensive care and had to recuperate in their unfinished home.
Before contacting a public adjuster, Linda said she called the USAA at least three times a week looking for answers on what to expect next, only to be told to wait for her adjuster. claims contact. Of the three adjusters assigned to him, two never bothered to reach out.
After posting a ‘derogatory’ statement about the USAA on Facebook – “I said something like ‘they sucked’,” said Linda Davis – the insurer reached out, but it was too deadlock.
She said that at one point a supervisor on the phone asked, âWell, what exactly do you want us to do for you? “
âYour job. How about doing your job?â Linda replied.
Peggy HonorÃ© paid her insurance premiums on time, every month for over a decade, but in the months following Hurricane Ida ripped the roof offâ¦
Shortly after, Davis’ son-in-law referred them to Smart Claims Public Adjusting, and after meeting the couple at their storm-destroyed home, Patestos agreed to take on their case at virtually no cost. Using sophisticated equipment such as moisture meters, drones and three-dimensional scanners, they wrote up what they believed was a more accurate estimate of the damage Davis caused.
Initially, the USAA resisted planning for a re-inspection, Patestos said, but after a bit of arming, the insurer sent a new independent adjuster. The revised estimate came well above Davis’ policy limit.
âThey are miracle workers,â Linda Davis said of the adjusters. “Without them, I would always call and try to beg to speak to someone for some sort of information.”
In some states, including Texas and Florida, public adjusters work in emergencies, collecting a portion of any settlement reached. In Louisiana, it is not allowed. Instead, public adjusters can only charge an hourly rate. These different compliance regimes can make it difficult for public adjusters in larger markets to do business in Louisiana, Patestos said.
USAA would not offer an explanation for the discrepancy between the initial settlement of $ 1,300 and the final payment of $ 43,000.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, insurers in Louisiana had 60 days to contact policyholders or face penalties. To meet demand after a disaster, insurers typically send an army of inexperienced adjusters who lack the expertise and authority to write large estimates. Insurers will sometimes follow up with more experienced adjusters after making the first contact, but as Linda Davis has learned, it can seem impossible to get that extra attention.
Anger at insurers in storm-ravaged southern Louisiana is so intense that political hope has suggested biblical punishment for compaâ¦
Insurers sometimes neglect policyholders in the hope that they will be exhausted by bureaucratic hurdles and simply settle for less, Patestos said. He noted that the wealthier clients, who have access to the resources to fight back, often receive settlements without having to endure as much bullshit as the poorer clients.
âIt’s amazing how quickly insurers will start to act when a public adjuster takes care of the claim,â added Stewart Severino, co-founder of Smart Claims Public Adjusting.
After months of waiting, the Davisians are finally on the road to recovery, thanks to their public adjusters. But they are far from putting Hurricane Ida behind them. Earlier this week, the contractor hired to mitigate damage to Davis’s condo after the storm submitted an invoice for $ 20,000 to the USAA. The couple are on the hook for the cost.
Having maximized their insurance coverage and living on a fixed Social Security income, the couple will need to be thrifty to get their house back to working order, said Linda Davis.
âI’m going to have to be tight with the money to do this,â she said.
Are you having problems with your insurer or lender as a result of Hurricanes Ida or Laura? Send your story to [email protected] and a reporter can contact you.
After Hurricane Laura crossed Lake Charles, John Ieyoub knew his house was uninhabitable. The rain had poured out through holes in the roof, saturated …
Usually, when state lawmakers meet in Baton Rouge to consider new insurer regulations, they avoid the additional restrictions by …
Did Louisiana’s main insurance regulator have the power to order State Farm and others to cover the short-term living costs of policyholders …