La. Commissioner Warns of Preparing for Hurricanes

May 26, 2004

Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Robert Wooley said checking all of one’s property insurance policies now could help save them from financial ruin during the hurricane season that begins June 1 and stays through November.

“We get a little lax when we haven’t suffered a really big hurricane for awhile,” Wooley warned. “After the busier-than-normal hurricane season that was predicted last year never happened, it would be easy to be lulled into thinking it won’t happen this year either. But when you think about it,” he said, “it really doesn’t matter whether we have 10 big storms or one. What really matters is that you be prepared if the big one brings terrible damage to your property.”

“Ask yourself whether you have the coverage today that you would want if you got hit really bad by a major storm. If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘don’t know,’ you need to get busy,” Wooley continued. “When the storm warnings are issued, it’s way too late to buy flood and other property insurance.”

The Commissioner said 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 flood insurance may have a waiting period.

“Even if you don’t live along the coast, there may be a 30-day period before any flood insurance policy becomes effective,” he said. “As a native of North Louisiana, I know that the aftermath of a hurricane can cause great devastation all over the state, especially from flooding. People throughout Louisiana need to make any needed changes to their insurance long before a storm is reported to be entering the Gulf.”

Wooley said residents should carefully read all correspondence they receive from their insurers. “Some insurance companies will actually raise the deductible in your homeowners policy without your realizing it,” Wooley said. The insurer cannot raise your deductible in the middle of a policy period but can raise it at renewal time. “Your insurance company will probably send you a notice if, for example, a hurricane deductible has been added, but you won’t know about the change unless you have a loss, which is too late to do anything about it. It is extremely important to read all documentation you receive from your insurance company.”

As an example, he went back to the subject of flood insurance coverage. “It is common for people to think their homeowners or renters insurance covers flooding, but homeowners policies typically do not cover most flood damage. Fortunately, Federal flood insurance can be purchased from local insurance producers (agents) who have made special arrangements with the Federal Insurance Administration. However, flood insurance does not cover motor vehicles. Flood insurance can be added to the vehicle’s liability insurance policy by purchasing comprehensive coverage. If there is a loan on the vehicle that requires collision and comprehensive coverage, flooding should generally be covered under that policy.”

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