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Those still waiting for insurance payments hear about options at town hall

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 11:19 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Less than a month from now it will be a year since Hurricane Laura devastated the Lake Area. Yet, some people are still fighting with their insurance companies.

There was an insurance claim town hall meeting Thursday night for consumers.

Despite a downpour, people made it to the Eastwood United Pentecostal Church for a chance to find out their options if they are still fighting with their insurance companies.

The panel included Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, who reminded people that often, filing a complaint with his office results in more money.

“We have added to what was being offered to those victims of that improper adjustment or other, we’ve added $47 million to the payments that they were being offered,” he said.

They also heard from attorney John Houghtaling, who has made a career of ferreting out bad behavior he says is aimed at preventing homeowners from getting what they deserve.

“There were allegations they were faking causation reports to deny benefits. A couple attorneys general started looking into it - the Mississippi AG went after them,” Houghtaling said.

He and Doug Quinn with American Policy Association talked about severe penalties for bad faith or criminal behavior.

“These are smart people doing devious things. This is not a thug throwing a brick through a jewelry store window during a smash and grab. These are brilliant people and they know how to cover their tracks,” said Quinn.

Local attorney Wells Watson, with Baggett McCall, is working with Houghtaling to help consumers. Watson says he cringes when he hears someone say they aren’t one of these lawsuit happy people.

“I get satisfaction with helping people and this is a particular time when people need help,” said Watson.

He says they are trying to help people get their homes fixed and all the other damages to which they are entitled. And says if insurance companies don’t meet deadlines established by law they could pay stiff penalties.

“Insurers must pay the amount of any claim due to any insured within 30 days after receipt of satisfactory proof of loss from the insured or any party in interest. If they fail to do it and they are found to be arbitrary and capricious they can owe 50% of the amount and your attorney’s fees. That’s what Louisiana law says,” said Watson.

“There’s another statute that says in addition to general or specific damages to which the insured is entitled, any actual damages you have can be subject to a two times penalty. And you heard Mr. Quinn talk about your worry, your concern. It wears you out. When you’re away from your house, you’re displaced, that’s hard. We’ve heard a lot of terrible stories that make you want to help,” he said.

Calcasieu DA Stephen Dwight says they are determined to prevent hurricane survivors from becoming victims again.

“I don’t want you to be a victim a third time. We’ve already been a victim twice. I do not want you to be a victim a third time, so if I see an engineering report where it’s fraudulently misrepresented, and they just add the word not like on the example, we will take action from the DA’s office,” said Dwight.

They hope consumers will consult experts to make sure they get what they deserve.

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