NU Online News Service, Jan. 13, 7:55 a.m. EST
NEW YORK – John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, was in Washington D.C. when a massive, destructive tornado tore through Joplin, Mo.
Huff, in Washington as a member of the U.S. Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), flew back to see the scene that had been described to him by agents as a “war zone.”
The tornado May 22 is now the largest insurance event in state history, said Huff at the Property/Casualty Insurance Joint Industry Forum on Jan. 10.
When Huff returned home, he said he didn’t visit the devastation in Joplin with a team from his office, or cameras following him. Accompanied by a single state trooper to get through roadblocks, Huff traveled to all the insurance catastrophe teams’ sites.
“I really couldn’t be more proud,” said Huff, who has worked in the industry. Insurers paid $1 billion the first 100 days after the twister, he said. Money was already being put back to rebuild, and you could see it, he said.
Claims payments will likely top out at $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion in Missouri, he added.
“The proof of the industry’s performance is in the numbers, and through the many stories I have heard,” Huff told National Underwriter. “Insurers took 18,000 claims and stepped up to the plate. They dealt very well with the community to help them begin the rebuilding process as soon as possible. You could see it happening everywhere.”
The expansive destruction created some problems, as insurers were not able to get to some homes and businesses to start the adjusting process, and contractors were in short supply. Huff said told insurers they’d need to extend rebuild deadlines in order to avoid bad-faith accusations and possible legal action.
He said consumer complaints have been “nominal”—about 800—but that includes all types of complaints.
Huff said one of the major lessons learned following the tornado was to educate residents about the need for insurance, whether or not your home has a mortgage.
Three insurers did go under due to Joplin-related claims. The operations of Barton Mutual Insurance Co., Gateway Mutual and Cape Mutual—all part of the Barton County Mutual Group—were assumed by Missouri Farm Bureau.