For Immediate Release - May 22, 2012

PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES 98 PERCENT OF 11,500 TORNADO-RELATED INSURANCE CLAIMS HAVE BEEN PAID BY INSURERS

Claims for cars, homes and businesses total $200.3 million

SPRINGFIELD – May 22, 2012 – The Patrick-Murray Administration announced today that more than 98 percent of the 11,500 tornado-related insurance claims filed after the June 1, 2011 storm have been paid, with policyholders receiving $200.3 million from carriers.

The information was compiled by the Administration’s Division of Insurance after requesting data from the 25 largest insurers in the state. According to a report on the information published by the Division today, more than 81 percent of claims were paid within four months of the storm.

“Despite the significant damage done by the tornadoes, we are seeing Western and Central Massachusetts recover nobly and ably and it is encouraging to see rebuilding happening throughout the region,” said Greg Bialecki, the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. “Getting claims quickly and effectively handled help homeowners and business owners get the money they need in a timely manner and help the rebuilding process.”

The Patrick-Murray Administration launched an immediate and comprehensive response to the June 1, 2011, tornadoes, and remains committed to helping impacted communities and residents use this crisis as an opportunity to rebuild, renew and rebound. Following the state’s multi-faceted emergency efforts last spring, the administration has maintained its presence in the region, dedicated significant resources to rebuilding projects and partnered with federal and local officials to get business and homeowners back on their feet. To date, individuals, homeowners and businesses have received more than $26.7 million in federal disaster assistance to cover uninsured losses. The Department of Housing and Community Development helped hundreds of families find emergency shelter and has so far funded $525,000 in home repair. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has directed $2.3 million in state funding to repair more than 20 streets throughout the region.

According to the Division of Insurance, as of April 2, 11,521 insurance claims had been filed for automobile, home or commercial damage. Of those claims, 11,314 of the claims, 98.2 percent, had been settled. The 10,764 auto and property claims (including home and renters’ insurance) generated $167.9 million in claim payments. The 757 commercial claims generated $32.4 million in claims.

The Division of Insurance’s report finds that 62 percent of the personal property claims filed were settled in June or July. The report also notes that the average payment amount increased month-by-month, from $5,955 in June to $10,540 in July, $13,484 in August and $26,890 in September. According to the report, that trend indicates that claims settled later involved more extensive damage that may have taken longer to appraise.

Immediately after the storm, the Division of Insurance staffed disaster relief centers and later held meetings in the region to give consumers the opportunity to seek information and advice. The Division also received more than 300 calls on its consumer hotline seeking information. Consumers filed 41 official complaints with their carrier and the Division acted as an advocate in those cases. Approximately a half-dozen complaints are still open.

“For many consumers dealing with an insurance claim can be a complicated process, particularly during a stressful time,” said Joe Murphy, the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Commissioner of Insurance. “Our role in these instances at the Division of Insurance is to provide as much assistance as possible to allow consumers to receive an appropriate claim that will help them repair or rebuild as necessary.”

According to the Division of Insurance, many calls from consumers focused on tree removal and what costs related to tree removal are covered. Typically, tree removal is covered if the tree caused property damage. The three most frequent complaints from consumers were related to displeasure with a claim estimate, delays or a public adjuster.

The Division of Insurance encourages all homeowners to carry adequate insurance. While mortgage lenders mandate homeowners carry insurance, homeowners who have paid off their mortgage are not legally obligated to carry insurance. Also, homeowners should regularly check their insurance policy to make sure replacement values and other coverage meet the homeowners need.

“Some of the most frequent problems we have found from homeowners is not having insurance or not having enough insurance to cover the cost of repairs,” said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. “By taking the time to review a policy and maybe spending a few extra dollars a year for adequate coverage, homeowners can be assured they are fully covered in times of crisis.”

For more information, read the report: http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/docs/doi/final-report-2011-tornadoes.pdf

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