A south Louisiana homeowner says he’s finally getting insurance proceeds to cover damages from flooding that happened eight months ago, thanks in part to a WWL-TV investigation.
The TV station featured Bucky and Vivian Millet of Lake Arthur in a story in February. It raised questions about a Metairie engineering firm called U.S. Forensic, which had produced a report stating that damage to the Millets’ floors were due to “long-term moisture intrusion” rather than the August flooding that devastated large swaths of south-central Louisiana.
A federal judge and the former head of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program had already accused U.S. Forensic of impropriety related to Hurricane Sandy claims. Then, after the WWL story aired, U.S. Sens. John Kennedy, R-La., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., blasted the new FEMA flood insurance chief for letting engineering firm continue to operate in the federally funded insurance program.
The Millets’ flood insurer, Farm Bureau, had used the U.S. Forensic report to deny much of their claim. So, the retired couple hired an independent insurance adjuster, Kermith Sonnier, and Washington-based attorney August Matteis to challenge the findings.
Last week, Farm Bureau agreed to pay the remaining amount under the Millets’ policy limits.
Bucky Millet said he was relieved, but also concerned that flood victims would need so much help to collect insurance proceeds if they had faithfully paid their premiums.
“Without (WWL-TV) and the independent adjuster, Mr. Sonnier, and the attorney out of Washington, it would have never been done,” Bucky Millet said. “I honestly believe that dealing with them as individuals they would have held their course and they wouldn't have paid us.”
FEMA's flood insurance program, the NFIP, is in major financial trouble, and Congress is working on reforms before the program expires in September. In addition, President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint released last month proposes slashing $190 million that FEMA spends to create new flood maps. Many expect that cost to be passed on to policyholders in the form of higher rates.