June 01, 2011

Missouri Department of Insurance: 17,000 insurance claims filed so far from Joplin tornado

Insurance director: Financially healthy insurance industry key to rebuilding

Jefferson City, Mo. - The major insurance companies serving consumers in the Joplin area have received nearly 17,000 claims so far from residents and business owners with damage from the EF-5 tornado that struck the area on May 22. The insurance companies have reported their preliminary claims numbers to the Missouri Department of Insurance, which are as follows:

  • Total claims: 16,979
  • Homeowners insurance claims: 6,149
  • Auto insurance claims: 8,995
  • Renters insurance claims: 442
  • Commercial property claims: 1,081
  • Commercial vehicle claims: 312

The data come from insurance companies in Missouri that make up more than 72 percent of Missouri's homeowners insurance market.

"As Gov. Nixon has said, Joplin will be rebuilt stronger than before, and the insurance industry will play a vital role," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "Consumers can be confident that their insurers have the financial strength to pay claims and meet their obligations. Overseeing that financial health is one of our most important jobs as regulators."

On Thursday, Gov. Nixon signed Executive Order 11-12, which forbids insurance companies from raising rates or canceling policies for consumers in Jasper and Newton counties for 30 days. The executive order could be extended.

Last week Huff visited mobile claims units set up in Joplin by insurance companies to serve consumers and businesses filing claims for tornado damage. A list of those seven insurers and the addresses of their mobile claims units is available at the insurance department's website.

Also posted online are the phone numbers and Web addresses of about 50 insurance companies that serve homeowners, tenants in rental property, auto owners and business owners in the Joplin area.

The website also offers guidance for property owners on avoiding fraud and rip-offs at the hands of repair contractors. If you have property damage, the department makes these suggestions:

  • Don't let contractors inspect your home if you're not watching. Some unscrupulous workers will cause damage to drive up repair costs, and your insurance company will likely not cover the additional damage.
  • Once your insurance 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. You can also check a company's complaint history with the Attorney General's Office or Better Business Bureau.
  • 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 or ask general questions about insurance by contacting the Missouri Department of Insurance at insurance.mo.gov or calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390.