March 2, 2012
Department of Insurance offers guidance for consumers affected by storms in southeast and southwest Missouri
Tips for filing claims, preventing further damage, avoiding repair fraud
Contact: Travis Ford
The Missouri Department of Insurance says individuals and businesses with damage from the Leap Day storms in Missouri should contact their insurance companies as soon as possible. Gov. Jay Nixon on Feb. 29 declared a state of emergency in Missouri in response to severe storms that struck numerous communities across the state.
The Department of Insurance offers this guidance for consumers affected by the storms:
- Contact your insurance agent or your insurance company's toll-free claims number as soon as possible.
- If you have lost the contact information for your insurance company, the department may be able to help you locate the company. Contact us using the information below.
- Make temporary repairs needed to prevent further damage. For example, a hole in the roof should be covered by a tarp or other material to keep rain out. Same for a broken car window. Otherwise, further damage will likely not be covered by your insurance policy. Keep the receipts for materials you buy so you can be reimbursed.
- Don't make permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the damage. If you do, your insurance company may not reimburse you.
- Once your claim is processed, get estimates from contractors or auto repair shops known to you or recommended by someone you trust. Be suspicious of strangers who offer to do repairs for you.
- If you believe your insurance company has not handled your claim properly, file a complaint with the Department of Insurance. The department will determine whether your insurance company has followed Missouri law in processing your claim.
- Don't let contractors inspect your property if you're not watching. Some unscrupulous companies will cause damage to drive up the repair cost, and your insurance company will likely not cover the additional cost.
- Don't pay the whole repair bill in advance. Pay in full only when the work is completed according to your agreement.
- Be suspicious of anyone who offers to get you more money for your insurance claim. A public adjuster - required to be licensed by the Department of Insurance - may solicit you. Public adjusters will require part of your claim settlement as payment for their services. In general, consider hiring a public adjuster only if you reach an impasse with your insurance company.
- Business owners can refer to the department's Insurance for Small Business page, which offers information on commercial property, business interruption insurance and more.
"We are assessing the response from major insurance companies serving these areas and we stand ready to assist consumers," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "It's especially important to ensure commercial claims in Branson and other areas are resolved promptly so the affected businesses can enjoy a full and robust tourism season."
Consumers can file complaints immediately with the Department of Insurance at insurance.mo.gov, or by calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390.
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.