After three days of staffing the Americans for Insurance Reform (AIR) Katrina Insurance Hotline, AIR can already report some important results.AIR has received many calls from Louisiana and Mississippi residents who are insured by smaller insurance companies (not the major companies like State Farm, Allstate or Travelers). Their insurance carriers are saying they are unwilling to supply policyholders with immediate living expenses until a claims adjuster has inspected their property. At the same time, these insurance representatives are unwilling to provide policyholders with even a broad estimate of when such an inspection might happen. Numerous people have told AIR, “Our money is running out and our insurance companies can’t tell us when or if any help is on the way.”Several policyholders report that representatives of United Fire Insurance, which also owns Lafayette, Addison, American Indemnity, and United Fire Lloyds, are saying that the company has officially declared that the damage and forced evacuations in New Orleans and the outlying areas were solely the result of flooding. While this apparent ruling has resulted in leaving many policyholders ineligible for the temporary “loss of use” funds guaranteed in their homeowners’ policies, if accurate, such a decision would have the long-term effect of leaving all of United Fire’s policy holders without flood insurance with little-to-no compensation for their damaged or destroyed homes. Calls to company headquarters for comment were not returned.Louisiana resident Shawna Balding reported to AIR that on-the-ground representatives at Travelers had told her 78-year-old mother, a New Orleans resident whose home was flooded, that she would have to travel to Baton Rouge or Gulfport to pick up the check owed to her for “additional living expenses.” After Shawna called the AIR hotline, AIR mentioned the situation on national television. After that TV appearance, Travelers called AIR to say that their vice president overseeing the Gulf Coast situation would personally ensure that this did not happen again. It is unclear to AIR if Shawna’s mother was the victim of company policy or the company’s poor communication with claims representatives.

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