April 28, 2011

Missouri Department of Insurance: Nearly 7,000 insurance claims filed after St. Louis tornado

Consumers need to avoid unscrupulous repair contractors

Jefferson City, Mo. - The major homeowners and auto insurance companies in Missouri have received nearly 7,000 claims from St. Louis residents with damage from the Good Friday tornado. The companies reported their claims to the Missouri Department of Insurance, which released these noteworthy findings today:

  • Total claims: 6,975
  • Homeowners insurance claims: 4,490
  • Auto insurance claims: 2,245
  • Commercial property claims: 240
  • Buildings with large or total losses: 137

One insurer reported nearly 2,500 claims, while another reported nearly 1,800. The data comes from insurance companies in Missouri that make up more than 85 percent of the homeowners insurance market.

"Missouri consumers and insurers have acted quickly to assess property damage and get claims filed," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "Our department will continue to monitor developments to make sure that consumers are receiving their benefits they're due under their insurance policies."

On Saturday, the department posted resources for storm victims on its website, including consumer tips and toll-free claims numbers for 18 of the major insurance companies in Missouri. The site also lists the addresses of mobile claims command units of five companies, which welcome walk-ins. Other companies have command units, but request that policyholders call to set up an appointment at the command center.

Huff says his biggest concern now is unscrupulous contractors who often prey on homeowners during a time of dire need. Advice for dealing with repair companies is also available from the department's online resources page and includes:

  • Don't let contractors inspect your home if you're not watching. Some unscrupulous workers will cause damage to drive up the repair cost, and your insurance company will likely not cover the additional damage.
  • 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. 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.