Storms Contribute to Uptick in Missouri Claims Recoveries

Missouri regulators have recovered $9.9 million for consumers so far in 2011—including $2.3 million in claims for damage caused by tornadoes—by resolving disputes between insurance companies and policyholders.

Officials with the state Department of Insurance announced this week that residents filed 9,500 written complaints and inquiries about their coverage providers through September, including 988 tied to the devastating tornado that swept through the city of Joplin in May.

That is nearly twice the 5,800 logged at this point in 2010, according to officials.

“Our recoveries are up $3.4 million over this time last year, which is a reflection of the numerous severe storms of 2011,” department Director John M. Huff said in a news release.

Huff said the nearly $10 million in recouped funds “is a reminder to consumers that they can have success by contacting our department when they reach an impasse with their insurance companies.”

The largest number of complaints—652—involved auto policies, followed by 493 about homeowner policies and 432 regarding health coverage.

State residents are still trying to return to normal after the tornadoes in St. Louis, Joplin and Sedalia, which caused major damages for residents and large losses for homeowner and car insurance companies in Missouri. Joplin-area residents suffering the worst destruction.

About 140 people died and thousands of buildings and vehicles were damaged by that twister, which the Insurance Information Institute has called the most damaging in more than 60 years.

State regulators announced in September that insurers had paid out more than $1 billion in claims stemming from the Joplin tornado. Huff has said he expects total payments to approach $2 billion once all claims are settled.

About $54 million has been paid out on private auto claims from the Joplin twister, the third-highest category after commercial property and homeowner claims.

A state law ushered in since the natural disasters could make it easier for residents to get claims assistance in the wake of a catastrophe. The legislation prohibits local governments from enforcing ordinances that require insurers to get business licenses or other documentation before operating mobile claims centers.

Huff said last month that insurers were forced on multiple occasions to apply for business licenses before parking mobile claims trucks in hard-hit areas.

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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