Q&A with Audrey Selden, Senior Associate Commissioner for consumer protection at the Texas Department of Insurance
Q: What’s the most common insurance complaints homeowners and businesses have after Hurricane Ike?
A: Most of them deal with claims handling delays. Meaning that a consumer has told us that their insurance carrier is not acting fast enough in terms of processing their claims. We are very concerned about hearing from consumers. If you feel you have not been helped by your insurance company or agent, we want you to call the Texas Department of Insurance at 1-800-252-3439 or log onto www.tdi.state.tx.us. The thing that we’ve seen most in terms of justified complaints, dealt with delays. That delay could have been in getting my claim set up, having someone assign an adjuster, having an adjuster release a report, having received a report releasing payment. We’ve seen delays at each one of those intervals. At this point, we’d like to see more movement in terms of helping consumers.
Q: Along the coast, we’ve heard from homeowners who say they are still waiting for both the flood insurance companies and the windstorm insurance companies to decide which company is paying what amount. What advice do you have for those people still waiting for answers?
A: For consumers who are waiting on a final determination as to what was the cause of their loss, they at this point want to make sure they have filed a claim with their flood insurance program, with their regular carrier, with Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, the Texas Fair Plan, or whoever might be their carrier. At this point, we should be to the point of getting additional information about what might have happened. Many consumers should have already received an advance, meaning some partial payment either for their additional living expenses or nominal payment regarding their damages. We are now almost four months following this disaster, so we would like to see additional movement on the part of these carriers to get these claims resolved.
Q: What’s the best advice you have for people still battling with their insurance companies?
A: I always tell consumers that I speak with that you are your own best advocate. You have to be diligent about making certain that everything you’re entitled to get under each one of those policies that you purchased, you actually received. If you’re not having your calls returned, that you’ve already gone back to the carrier and said this amount is not sufficient and you’re not getting any help with a supplemental payment, then I think you should complain to us.
Q: We know most people get flood insurance from the Federal Flood Insurance Program. Can consumers still come to the state with flood insurance disputes?
A: We do have contacts with our federal partners and if someone is having a serious problem with the flood program, please have them call us or send us a complaint and we’ll work with the National Flood Insurance Program to get them the answer they might need. We do know the people to contact to get a second look, if you will, at your flood policy.