July 14, 2011

Missouri Department of Insurance returns $5 million to consumers through first half of 2011

Joplin, St. Louis tornadoes dominate calls, inquiries from residents

Jefferson City, Mo. - The Missouri Department of Insurance says consumers affected by the Joplin tornado have contacted the department in a steady stream of inquiries since the event May 22. The department released its quarterly complaint data today, and announced it has recovered $5.2 million for consumers who filed complaints against their insurance companies in the first six months of 2011.

Of the 8,639 inquiries received from consumers in the first six months of the year, 764 were related to the Joplin tornado and 369 were related to the Good Friday tornado that struck St. Louis on April 22.

Some notable accomplishments for Joplin consumers:

  • A low-income woman who struggles to read and write lost her house and possessions in the tornado. While she'd received a claim payment for her property, she was having trouble finding enough money to eat each day. A Department of Insurance representative in the Joplin office read her insurance policy, explained it to her and discovered she was entitled to $5,000 in living expenses. She received payment later that day.
  • A homeowner who had significant roof and interior damage complained that his insurance claim had been denied. The department contacted his insurer and determined that a "roof exclusion" had mistakenly been put on his policy. The insurance company corrected the mistake and paid the claim of $45,000.
  • A dentist who lost his business in the tornado contacted the department because he couldn't get his insurer to cover his destroyed office contents. The department arranged an appointment with the dentist and his insurance company's Joplin staff that same day. During the appointment, the insurer wrote him a $50,000 check for an advancement payment for his lost contents.

The department has released the following data regarding the most common categories of complaints received from consumers statewide:

By reason

By line of insurance

Denial of claim (565)

Health (343)

Delay of claim processing (396)

Homeowners (295)

Unsatisfactory offer (243)

Auto (258)

"Consumers need to know they have a free resource in our department that can help them navigate the sometimes complex world of insurance claims," said Missouri Insurance Director John M. Huff. "Often times a call or a letter from our technical experts is all it takes to resolve a dispute between policyholders and their insurance companies."

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.