April 23, 2011

Missouri Department of Insurance offers online resources for St. Louis tornado victims

Contact information for major insurers, tips for homeowners

Jefferson City, Mo. - The Missouri Department of Insurance has posted resources on its website for consumers with damage from the Friday night tornado that swept through the St. Louis area. Information includes:

  • Toll-free numbers of 18 homeowners insurance companies in Missouri
  • Locations of mobile command units set up by some companies
  • Instructions for filing a complaint with the department
  • Guidance for storm victims for handling claims and protecting their property

Insurance Director John M. Huff and other department officials have been in contact with senior leadership from Missouri insurance companies since the storm struck.

"According to our reports, insurers began making claims payments to homeowners early Saturday morning," said Huff. "One insurer has already reported more than 300 claims, and we'll be monitoring the situation to ensure consumers are receiving the benefits their insurance policies provide."

Huff says most of the claims paid so far are for temporary living arrangements for consumers with homes left uninhabitable by the storm.

The department says if you have storm damage, the key is to act quickly:

  • Contact your insurance agent or your insurance company's toll-free claims number as soon as possible. Some insurance companies set up mobile claims units with staff in areas hit hard by storms.
  • 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 goes for a broken car window. Otherwise, further damage will likely not be covered by insurance. 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 claim might be denied.
  • 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 solicitors who offer to do repairs for you.
  • If you believe your insurance company has not handled your claim property, 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 home 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.

Consumers can file complaints with the Department of Insurance at insurance.mo.gov, or starting Monday by calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390.