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New Law Clears Up Red Tape for Mobile Insurance Claims Centers

Insurance companies in Missouri may no longer have to climb a mountain of regulatory red tape in order to reach out to policyholders after a natural disaster, thanks to new law in that state.

The legislation guarantees that coverage providers will be able to set up mobile claims centers in storm-damaged areas and prohibits cities, counties and other governments from restricting companies’ ability to do so by requiring temporary business licenses or other paperwork.

Mobile claims

State Farm and other insurers typically dispatch mobile claims units in the wake of serious weather events. (Photo courtesy of State Farm)

John M. Huff, director of the state Department of Insurance, said insurers were forced by cities “on multiple occasions in 2011” to acquire business licenses before they were allowed to park mobile claims trucks in hard-hit areas.

“The aftermath of a damaging storm is no time for unnecessary red tape,” Huff said in a statement.

As written, the new law bars local governments “from imposing restrictions or enforcing local licensing or registration ordinances” against claims handling operations “at the time of any emergency, catastrophe, or other life or property threatening event which jeopardizes the ability of an insurer to address the financial needs of its insureds or the public.”

Missouri regulators last month announced that more than $745 million has been paid on the more than 16,600 auto, homeowner and other claims filed after a tornado struck the city of Joplin in May.

The majority of claims received and payments made so far have been for homeowner coverage, but there were also losses reported by Missourians with low down payment auto insurance and other vehicle policies.

Auto claims made up about 40 percent of the number of reported losses, but accounted for only about 6 percent of the total amount paid.

Insurers expect to see about 1,300 additional claims to be filed.

Huff has called the recovery “the largest insurance event in Missouri history” and projected that claims payments will total nearly $2 billion.

He encouraged consumers who have questions or complaints about their coverage to contact his department.

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