Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Robert Wooley said it’s never too early to get one’s hurricane-related insurance matters in order. Wooley issued the message during Hurricane Awareness Week, which runs through May 24. The 2003 Atlantic Hurricane season begins on June 1 and continues through November.
According to Wooley, government forecasters predict a busier-than-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with six to nine hurricanes expected, including two to four major storms with winds of at least 111 miles-per-hour. Eleven to 15 tropical storms are predicted as well. The historical average is 10 tropical storms and six hurricanes. Last year, there were 12 tropical storms and four hurricanes, which included Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance estimates those two storms caused more than $576 million in insured losses in Louisiana last year. “Residents need to be prepared before the storm strikes,” Wooley commented. “When the storm warnings are issued, that’s when it’s too late to buy flood and other property insurance.” The Commissioner says many companies halt the sale of property insurance in areas along the coast once a hurricane or tropical storm enters the Gulf of Mexico, and all flood insurance has a waiting period. “Even if you don’t live along the coast, there is still a 30-day period before any flood insurance policy becomes effective.”
Wooley said policyholders should carefully read all correspondence they receive from their insurers. “Some insurance companies will actually raise your deductible and you may not realize it,” the Commissioner contends. Wooley adds that an insurer cannot raise a deductible in the middle of a policy period but can upon renewal. “The insurance company is required by law to send their customers notice when raising deductibles, so it’s really important to review all documentation you receive from your insurance company,” the Commissioner added.
He also said it is not uncommon for some citizens to think their homeowners or renters insurance covers flooding.
“Homeowners policies typically do not cover most flood damage,” the Commissioner said. Federal flood insurance can be purchased from insurance agents who have made special arrangements with the Federal Insurance Administration, or it can be purchased directly from the National Flood Insurance Program.
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