September 9, 2011

New laws bring insurance protections for consumers affected by damaging storms

Better access to insurers, new rules for home-repair companies

Jefferson City, Mo. - Missouri homeowners hit by damaging storms now have stronger protections in place under two new state laws signed by Gov. Jay Nixon. The laws allow insurance companies to better serve hard-hit areas and protect consumers against unscrupulous repair contractors.

Senate Bill 101 prohibits exterior repair contractors, such as roofing and siding companies, from offering to pay a homeowner's insurance deductible in hopes of making a sale. It also forbids repair companies from negotiating with an insurance company on behalf of an insured homeowner.

John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, says the law will help cut down on consumer confusion over the roles of insurance company adjusters and home repair contractors. Huff says some repair companies call themselves "insurance claims specialists" and promise to get homeowners more money for their insurance claim.

Another law that recently look effect, Senate Bill 132, guarantees insurance companies' ability to set up mobile service centers in storm-damaged areas, allowing consumers to file claims. The law makes it illegal for cities, counties or other political subdivisions to restrict the activities of insurance companies establishing temporary operations solely for the purpose of assisting customers with claims.

"On multiple occasions in 2011, insurers were required to obtain a business license from a city before parking mobile claims trucks to serve their customers," said Huff. "The aftermath of a damaging storm is no time for unnecessary red tape. Thanks to this law, Missouri insurance companies will be able to move quickly and serve customers in their time of need."

The department offers online resources for both preparation for and recovery after severe weather and property damage, including pages dedicated to victims of the April 22 tornado in St. Louis and the May 22 tornado in Joplin.

Consumers with complaints or questions about their insurance claim or policy provisions can call the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390 or file a complaint at insurance.mo.gov.

About the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration

The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP) is responsible for consumer protection through the regulation of financial industries and professionals. The department's seven divisions work to enforce state regulations both efficiently and effectively while encouraging a competitive environment for industries and professions to ensure consumers have access to quality products.

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