Scruggs Says Miss. Lawsuits Over Wind vs. Flood Claims on a ‘Fast Track’

January 25, 2006

Richard ‘Dickie’ Scruggs, the attorney who represents thousands of Mississippi policyholders and has filed suit to obtain payment for flood damages from their insurance carriers, maintains that homeowners insurance claims are legitimate because damages were caused by a storm surge. He plans to use that defense in court.

“That storm surge is not a flood. And if storm surge did most of the damage, or a good bit of the damage, then it doesn’t matter whether it was water or wind that did the damage. It’s still a covered event under the hurricane endorsement of the policies,” Scruggs told WLOX-TV, Channel 13 in Biloxi, Miss.

Scruggs said a win in the seven test cases should mean a win for everyone.

“If the federal judges who are overseeing these cases see the law the same way we do, then I think we’re going to have some quick success here,” he says.

Scruggs calls Katrina an equal opportunity destroyer, crossing economic lines and political boundaries to impact everyone. His brother-in-law Senator Trent Lott of Pascagoula and Congressman Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis both lost their beachfront homes and are among those suing their insurers.

“It’s very shameful that insurers are letting these people down, going on the air pretending they’re good hands people, good neighbors, on your side, catch slogans like that, when in fact they’re just the opposite,” Scruggs said.

Since he first announced in September he would sue the insurance companies, Scruggs says more and more people call him for help. Scruggs says that’s because people are tired of getting what he says is the run around.

“People were trusting at first saying, ‘Surely they’re not going to stiff me, you know. I’ve got a policy here and it says hurricane is covered, so surely they’re not going to give me the run around,’ Scruggs told Channel 13. And when they find they are, they just run out of options and they have to call a lawyer.”

Homeowners may have another avenue to challenge their insurance payments. Letters explaining the state’s mediation program are arriving this week. People with at least a $500 disputed claim are eligible for mediation.

The Mississippi Insurance Commission says the rules require insurance companies to participate. The mediation program does not apply to commercial property, car insurance or to National Flood Insurance Program policies.

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