NEW ORLEANS — It’s been four-and-a-half months since Hurricane Ida hit, and there are still families waiting on insurance payments to fix their homes.
And now, more and more victims are turning to the state insurance department for help, or asking an attorney to speed up the process.
Kamri Butler says her Algiers home looks the exact same as the morning after Hurricane Ida hit. There is structural damage on the outside. The shed in the yard had to be demolished. Inside, floors are gone, walls are damaged and sheetrock and insulation fall from a hole in roof.
“We're going into a new year with the same damage that occurred in September with the hurricane,” 23-year-old Kamri Butler said.
A week after the Aug. 29 storm, they called their insurance company. The adjuster came out four months later in December.
“They told us that some of the damage would not be covered,” she said.
That's when they decided to call an attorney.
“We needed to get some work done. We thought maybe if we put a little fire under the insurance company, you know, they'll be willing to help us a little bit faster,” Butler said.
Attorney Wynton Yates says calls from frustrated homeowners are increasing.
“We're months out from the storm and people are still trying to get their lives back together,” said Wynton Yates, an attorney with Kherkher Law Firm.
He says most homeowners don't know about a Louisiana law meant to protect them from long waits.
“The law is pretty simple. If the insurance company does not pay you within 30 days of the adjuster coming to your house, and putting eyes on damage, on day 31 they owe you up to 50 percent more on your claim, plus attorney’s fees,” Yates said.
If you take advantage of that statute and you get paid extra, are you at higher risk of having your policy dropped?
“The insurance companies are not supposed to target you as an individual for enforcing state law,” he said.
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon clarified the statute.
“They have to pay you within 30 days of your submission of a 'satisfactory proof of loss' and that's a submission on a form,” Donelon said.
Donelon added that this penalty payment is at the discretion of the court.
“They have to determine that the adjustment by the company was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable in order add those penalties and attorney’s fees,” Donelon said.
Meanwhile, he asks homeowners who are are having problems getting insurance settlements, to file a complaint with his office. Already 3,000 have come in after Ida.
Donelon also says even when an insurance company considers a case closed, it is not until you receive full compensation for your covered losses.
Phone number and link for the state office: 1-800-259-5300 or you can visit their website for more information.