BATON ROUGE — Robin Baudoin of Sulphur lost her two-story home last August when Hurricane Laura roared through Southwest Louisiana, and she told members of the House Insurance Committee here Tuesday she is still awaiting a settlement from her insurance company nine months later.
Baudoin was testifying in favor of House Bill 469 by Rep. Ed Larvadain, D-Alexandria, that clarifies the responsibility of the insurers and those who are insured. It provides that inspection of the property and damage incurred is satisfactory proof of loss.
Larvadain’s bill was one of four insurance measures that cleared the committee and move to the full House. The authors of those measures said they would be working with opponents before the bills are debated.
Baudoin said her home looked like it was hit by a bomb when she surveyed the damage the day after the hurricane hit. Rain then became an even bigger problem, she said. She lost 90 percent of her belongings and was told the damage to her home was so bad tarpaulins on her roof wouldn’t help.
The insurance company at first said she could repair her home, but it was impossible. Baudoin said she is still paying homeowner premiums for a home that no longer exists. She said she is now living in a garage apartment.
Current law says failure of an insurer to make payment of a claim within the time frame provided shall subject the insurer to a penalty, in addition to the amount of the loss, of 50 percent. If the amount due is $100,000, the penalty would be an additional $50,000.
Larvadain’s bill tried to quadruple the penalty, but that was removed from the bill with an amendment. Insurance spokesmen called that provision “bad faith” that would increase premium costs and cause companies to quit selling policies in Louisiana.
Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, who is an insurance claims adjuster, sponsored three of the bills. HB 457 sets up standards of conduct for claims adjusters, and the legislation spells out what those standards are in detail.
HB 458 provides for additional living expenses and fair rental value coverages under residential insurance policies. Those expenses would be paid if the homeowner loses water, electricity, sewer or natural gas services for a period of at least 24 hours.
Firment’s HB 591 deals with depreciation of damaged property. If depreciation is applied, the insurer would have to provide a written explanation as to how the depreciation was calculated.
Insurance companies haven’t offered any solutions to problems that have surfaced after Hurricanes Laura and Delta, Firment said.
Rodney Braxton, who represents State Farm, said a third of the state was affected by the hurricanes and a lot of insureds’ needs have been taken care of. He said he didn’t think the insurance system is broken.
Figment said there are serious communications problems. Many adjusters are new, he said, some are temporarily living in Houston and they have workloads that are too big.
“We need to correct bad behavior,” Firment said.