Insurers Begin Processing Claims in the Wake of Hurricane Irene

Some major auto insurance providers are reaching out to East Coast residents with help filing claims for damages caused by Hurricane Irene.

State Farm announced Tuesday it had sent more than 1,200 catastrophe claim representatives to storm-ravaged areas, adding to agents and other staff members already employed in those regions.

Damage from Hurricane Irene (Photo courtesy of State Farm)

The company reported that its policyholders had filed 37,664 homeowner claims and 4,412 claims for auto coverage as of noon Tuesday from the storm, which killed at least 40 people in 12 states over the weekend.

The largest number of reported losses came from New Jersey, where 7,575 homeowner and nearly 500 auto claims were logged, followed by New York, with 6,692 claims for home damages and 820 for auto losses.

Industry experts have predicted that the insurance costs from the hurricane will be steep. Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, told several news outlets that the organization expects total damages to be between $3 billion and $5 billion.

Also Tuesday, Allstate announced it has set up 17 mobile claims centers to assist residents of the hardest-hit portions of six eastern states. The centers are outfitted with generators, satellite technology and high-speed Internet.

Industry experts say it can be all too easy for victims of natural disasters to put off filing claims on their inexpensive auto insurance policies, and government officials and coverage providers have urged people to take care of their insurance issues in the wake of Irene.

Five Allstate mobile centers are open in New Jersey, Allstate reported, along with four in North Carolina, three in New York, two each in Maryland and Virginia and one in Connecticut.

The facilities are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Company officials said their goal is to help storm victims start the claims process quickly and get answers to their insurance questions.

The response from insurers supplements ongoing efforts by government agencies to help East Coast residents weather the storm and its aftermath.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported Monday that it had more than 428 shelters open in 15 states and Puerto Rico.

FEMA officials said the number of people using shelters is dropping as residents return to their homes.

About Gregor McGavin
Gregor McGavin is an award-winning journalist who has reported across the country for such publications as The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Press-Enterprise.

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