Insurance companies reminded to obey law after complaints stream into commissioner’s office

    BRIEF

    An oak tree weighed down with ice brought down a street light when it toppled during Monday's winter storm. (Photo by Jarvis DeBerry / Louisiana Illuminator)

    Following complaints against insurance companies that are refusing to give policyholders full copies of their policies and refusing to work with public adjusters, Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon released a statement Wednesday reminding insurers of their legal obligations to consumers as they work on claims from the devastating 2020 hurricane season and last month’s extreme winter weather event. 

    Donelon told insurance companies they must provide copies of policies when policyholders request them and they must continue to engage with their customers even if those policyholders hire a public adjuster. He further reminded them that it was in their own interest to do so to avoid litigation, according to a statement released Tuesday.

    The Louisiana Department of Insurance received complaints against insurers not providing full copies of policies as required by state statute under the Policyholder Bill of Rights.  All policyholders are entitled to receive copies of their policies from their insurer in a timely manner, and those who do not receive copies of their policies upon request should file a complaint with the Department of Insurance.

    Donelon also reminded insurers and agents that public adjusters are not authorized to act as legal representatives for policyholders under Louisiana law and that the involvement of a public adjuster does not affect an insurer or agent’s obligation to communicate with policyholders, the press release said. If a consumer is experiencing difficulty contacting their insurer or agent and is told it is because they have hired a public adjuster, they are encouraged to contact the Department of Insurance immediately to file a complaint.

    “We’ve heard from policyholders in the Lake Charles area that many people are still having trouble engaging contractors, crews and materials to make repairs on homes, businesses and places of worship damaged by hurricanes Laura and Delta,” Donelon said in a press release Tuesday. “I am committed to making insurers understand the extraordinary nature of the 2020 hurricane season and that working with policyholders is the only way forward for a strong recovery in the state of Louisiana.”

    After a catastrophe, policyholders have an initial 180 days to file documentation of their claim known as a “proof of loss” with their insurer. The 180-day mark after Hurricane Laura was Feb. 23. The 180-day file date for proof of loss forms for Hurricane Delta is April 7 and for Hurricane Zeta is April 26.

    Donelon encourages policyholders who are having trouble with their insurance claims to call the Louisiana Department of Insurance for help at (800) 259-5300 or file a complaint online at https://www.ldi.la.gov/fileacomplaint.

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    Wesley Muller
    Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.