Adjusters have done little to assess insurance losses in New Orleans due to political infighting and safety concerns while in outlying parishes it will be months before they finish their estimates, Louisiana’s insurance commissioner said.

Insurance Commissioner J. Robert Wooley said claims adjusters are systematically working through a grid established by the Louisiana Department of Insurance. The first grid, in St. Bernard Parish, was completed recently, and the second grid, covering St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, should be completed shortly.

There are a total of 25 grids of 1,000 homes, Mr. Wooley explained, in which adjusters work north to south. The grids start on the west and work east. Some small carriers, he said, have reported completion of their work in the first two grids and are moving beyond into the next grid.

The advantage of this system, he pointed out, is that it allows local officials to plan their next move, if condemnation is necessary, knowing the property owner’s insurer has completed the claims work.

At this rate, however, it will still be six months before the work is complete, and work has yet to start in full in New Orleans itself, he noted.

In St. Bernard and Plaquemines, the need for demolition may not be as extensive as originally feared, Mr. Wooley said.

He related that on a recent inspection he saw a number of homes where the owner’s painted “Do Not Demolish” on the house, fearing once the adjusting was complete it opened the door to demolition. However, he said, there is a very extensive process involving local government and the homeowner before any demolition.

In New Orleans, he said, the claims process is plagued by political infighting between Mayor Ray Nagin and the city council as well as safety concerns which have meant adjusters have needed local authorities to provide them escorts before they enter areas.

When asked if there are enough claims adjusters, Mr. Wooley said there are not, adding, “Resources are stretched pretty thin.”

He said carriers are trying to keep adjusters in the state, but have had to pull some out to handle claims in Florida from Hurricane Wilma.

“[The carriers] are doing the best they can to get the job done,” he noted.

Some progress is being made, and the state is slowly getting back to normal, he said.

Tomorrow, Mr. Wooley said he plans to lift a Nov. 30 order that prevented insurers from canceling policies. However, it will remain in effect for four parishes affected by Hurricane Katrina, including Orleans Parish, and three parishes affected by Rita. All of the emergency orders affecting cancellation are to be lifted by the end of the year, he added.