In a rare display of bipartisan unity, lawmakers in the Louisiana House of Representatives voted unanimously to support a bill that would put stricter controls on home insurance companies. House Bill 585 has since cleared the committee stage and is scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate. If the bill is passed and signed into law, insurers will be required to provide copies of field adjuster reports within 15 days of receiving requests from policyholders. It will also increase the penalty for failing to pay claims in a timely manner from $1,000 to $2,500.
The lawmaker who sponsored House Bill 585 said legislative action was necessary because homeowners are finding it increasingly difficult to settle claims filed after natural disasters. When settlement offers are made, they are often for far less than the amount needed to make adequate repairs. Homeowners frustrated by the process often hire structural engineers and private adjusters to gather information that can be used to negotiate with insurance companies. This places poor homeowners and people who lack negotiating skills at an unfair disadvantage.
One of the people who testified in favor of the legislation was a Sulphur woman who lost her home when Hurricane Laura struck Louisiana in August 2020. Her house was so badly damaged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told her that using tarpaulins to protect what was left would be a waste of time. After sending four adjusters out to assess the hurricane damage, her insurance company determined that the home was repairable. The woman hired experts of her own and made efforts to resolve the matter amicably, but she soon realized that filing a lawsuit was the best option she had.
Holding insurance companies accountable
Homeowners sometimes accuse insurance companies of delaying the claims process intentionally to put additional stress on policyholders who have already had their lives turned upside down. If you have filed an insurance claim and the amount that you have been offered seems inadequate, an attorney with experience in this area could negotiate on your behalf. Hiring an attorney may encourage your insurance company to take the matter more seriously and let them know that delaying tactics could lead to litigation.