Hundreds of Adjusters Traveling Toward Damaged Areas, But Have Few Places to Stay

September 2, 2005

Teams of hundreds of insurance adjusters have been dispatched to begin evaluating and filing claims in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. They expect to start their tedious jobs right after Labor day, now that they are being given permission to move through checkpoints into storm-damaged areas.

One team of adjusters told Insurance Journal they had been in Miami since Katrina hit there, but had been asked to complete their outstanding work in South Florida Friday and Saturday and were being sent north on Sunday. They said, however, that the only place they could obtain accommodations was in Destin, Fla. and would have to commute more than 100 miles to Mobile, Ala. to investigate claims there, and would have to make the commute until closer accommodations were obtained.

As an indication of how bad the hotel-room situation was, one of our readers in California commented at, that her father was being “kicked out of a hotel because its rooms were booked up in advance:

“The Days Inn in Tucaloosa, Ala. is telling guests that they have to leave Thur. Sept. 1 because fans (that are coming from their untouched homes), have booked the rooms for this weekend’s game.

“My 80-year-old father is among them (ed. Note: those being asked to leave the hotel). He needs to stay. He has no power or water at his home in Mississippi. He is on a nebulizer for breathing.”

John Eager, senior director for claims with the Chicago-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told The Associated Press that adjusters – who must evaluate the damage to homes and businesses before claims can be approved – had begun getting permission to move through checkpoints into storm-damaged areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

“We believe there will be quite a few deployments over the weekend,” Eager told a news conference. “By Monday, we should have a lot of them deployed.”

Eager noted that in most disasters, adjusters move to the hardest hit areas first and work their way toward outlying areas. In the wake of Katrina, however, they’ve started on the perimeter and are working their way in, he said.

St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc. spokeswoman Jennifer Wislocki said the company sent about 100 people to the damaged area to collect claims, with 500 more standing by around the rest of the country. She said adjusters can’t get into New Orleans yet, but they’ve been working in Jackson, Miss., and Birmingham, Ala.

“Safety is a concern because of reports of looting and armed robberies in some of the Gulf Coast cities hit by the hurricane earlier this week,” Donald Griffin PCIA vice president said. He added that standing flood water also was a concern, as were downed power lines, debris and even snakes.

Griffin said it was too early to give updated estimates of the cost of the storm for insurers. Rick assessment firms have said insured losses could total up to $25 billion.

That would make Katrina the most expensive hurricane ever, surpassing the $21 billion inflation-adjusted cost for Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Griffin told The Associated Press that there likely will be “significant uninsured losses,” too, but did not give an estimate.

Standard & Poor’s said on Thursday that damage from Hurricane Katrina could reach $50 billion after damage to bridges, roads and other public infrastructure is taken into account.

Parts of this report included material excerpted from The Associated Press, copyright 2005. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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