Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tornadoes Strike Again

Community-wide claim work watched by Insurance Division

(DES MOINES) April 10, 2011– Once again we have been reminded of nature’s potential destructive force and our inability to know when and where we will experience it.  Tornadoes ripped into northwest Iowa counties last weekend and destroyed over a hundred homes, especially in the town of Mapleton. While storm clean-up is now underway, the next phase will involve the actions related to the best protection we have against the losses of such storms, insurance coverage.

Most of the time, storm response by insurers shows the value of the product and the stability and efficiency of the insurer systems set up for claims settlements. If that is not the result in individual cases, the Iowa Insurance Division (IID) wants storm victims to know that their state regulator is there to help.

“That’s part of our job,” said Iowa’s Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss. “We believe that consumers should see the companies deliver on the promise insurers make when they sell a policy. We operate our website and toll-free consumer assistance line to take complaints from Iowans who don’t see the result they should.”

Iowans can call 1-877-955-1212 to file any complaints about services provided under consumer’s  policies.  Complaints may also be filed online at www.iid.state.ia.us .

Insurance adjusters may well be overwhelmed when there are scores of claims to process instead of a handful.  Iowa disasters in the past have shown that companies have been willing and able to bring in additional adjusters to help their regular staff with the increased claim volume.  The Insurance Division expects that customers will receive service in a reasonable time, even in mass claim circumstances.

Some adjusters that can be found at the sites of disasters do not work for insurance companies.  These are referred to as public adjusters, who work for a flat fee or a percentage of the amount recovered from insurance companies, as opposed to company adjusters who are paid by the company, not the policyholder.  Iowa requires anyone acting as a public adjuster to have a current license to act in that capacity.  If anyone with an insurance claim is approached by someone offering to adjust a claim as a public adjuster, IID recommends that consumers should ask to see the public adjuster license for the person selling the service.  IID will be happy to verify licensing status for any consumer calling the toll-free number above.

Even before the adjuster arrives, IID advises consumers to take many pictures of the damage.  Extensive pictures taken before clean-up of a site are also useful, if possible. Storm victims are also encouraged to start making a list of losses as soon as they can in order to speed the claim settlement process.

One of the challenges after such a devastating storm is to document the losses a person has suffered, especially in the area of personal property.  Those fortunate enough to have avoided personal property losses as a result of this storm system may see this as a reminder to make a household inventory and store it in a safe place for access after a loss.

IID and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) recently announced the release of a new iPhone® application from the NAIC that lets consumers easily create and  store a household inventory in an electronic format.  A printed form is also available.

The freemyHOME Scr.APP.book app lets users quickly photograph and capture images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers, and then stores them electronically for safekeeping. The app organizes information room by room, and even creates a back-up file for e-mail sharing. 

“A home inventory assures you know exactly what you own, and what it’s worth, before you need to make a claim,” says Voss. “Our research, however, suggests almost half of all Americans don’t have an inventory of their possessions. Our new iPhone® app makes it easy to document your personal property. Knowing what you own will help you with claims in the event of a loss.”

About the Iowa Insurance Division

The Iowa Insurance Division (IID) has general control, supervision and direction over all insurance and securities business transacted in the state, and enforces Iowa’s laws and regulations. The IID investigates consumer complaints and prosecutes companies, agents and brokers engaging in unfair trade practices. Consumers with insurance or securities-related questions or complaints may contact the IID toll free at 877-955-1212 or visit the division on the web at www.iid.state.ia.us.


About the NAIC

Formed in 1871, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is a voluntary organization of the chief insurance regulatory officials of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The NAIC has three offices: Executive Office, Washington, D.C.; Central Office, Kansas City, Mo.; and Securities Valuation Office, New York City. The NAIC serves the needs of consumers and the industry, with an overriding objective of supporting state insurance regulators as they protect consumers and maintain the financial stability of the insurance marketplace. For more consumer information, visit insureUonline.org.