Insurers: Trial Bar Short on Facts in Katrina Charges

August 22, 2006

Trial attorneys’ charges that the insurance industry is putting profits over people in the handling of claims from Hurricane Katrina are being dismissed by industry trade groups.

The Florida Insurance Council (FIC), joined by three national property and casualty trade associations, said that the report released by the Academy of Florida Trial Attorneys, entitled “Pattern of Greed” to be totally without merit.

“While the insurance industry is busy helping hurricane victims reconstruct their lives again, the trial bar appears to be hell-bent on deconstructing the insurance industry. It’s an apparent act of sour grapes after losing lawsuits in Mississippi that they had hoped would garner millions of dollars for themselves,” said Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council.

“The property-casualty insurance industry has great empathy for all victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricanes Rita and Wilma. We are proud to be a central part of the recovery and rebuilding system along the Gulf Coast.

“The number one priority of insurers, especially after catastrophic events like Katrina, is to take care of our policyholders and help them rebuild their lives,” said Miller. “For the trial bar to cobble together a collection of media stories, full of unfounded and unproven allegations, to use in an attack on the tens of thousands of dedicated insurance industry employees who have been serving policyholders in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, is inappropriate and counterproductive. Insurers want to work with consumers and public policymakers in Florida to develop innovative solutions based on sound economic principles to stabilize the state’s insurance market and support the Florida economy.”

Like insurers, the trial bar has also been busy since Hurricane Katrina hit, but not in the service of consumers, according to Miller. Instead, they’ve engaged in a broad effort to distort the facts and paint an inaccurate and harshly negative picture of insurers, according to the insurer groups.

Insurers said that the trial attorneys ignore the following, which they say are the facts of the situation:

As reported by the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 95 percent of homeowners’ insurance claims have been settled in Louisiana and Mississippi, totaling nearly $15.5 billion. Homeowners insurers ultimately will pay more than one million homeowners claims totaling $16.4 billion from Hurricane Katrina.

A very small percentage of claims remain unresolved. Some of these remaining claims will be resolved by the state’s impartial mediation program. Others will be resolved via litigation.

Insurers are committed to paying for all damage that falls within the limits of the insurance contracts with their customers.

Insurers cannot pay claims for coverage the policyholder did not purchase. This would include damage from storm surge and flooding, both of which have been excluded from homeowners policies.

In the Leonard v. Nationwide decision announced last week in Mississippi, the court reaffirmed the flood exclusion found in most state-approved homeowners’ policies.

“Going forward, we urge the plaintiff’s bar to join with insurers in a productive and positive effort to meet the enormous challenges of rebuilding the Gulf Coast,” Miller added. “The Hurricane Katrina recovery is almost one year old and insurers remain dedicated to a successful completion of that effort. Can the trial bar say the same?”

Source: Florida Insurance Council

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