Hurricane season is coming up, but some folks in Louisiana are still fighting their insurance companies for payments after last season.
Four named hurricanes in two years – and a deadly tornado – have put a massive strain on Louisiana’s insurance market.
“We are under pressure for insolvencies, several companies failing and others withdrawing from our market in the aftermath of their losses,” said Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon.
Four companies have gone bankrupt since Hurricane Ida hit the state last August, leaving many families without the money to fix their homes.
More than 60,000 homeowners also have been forced to find new coverage. The Ficaros are one of them.
“The mold was just from top to bottom, especially the kids’ room took on a lot of water,” mom Nicole Ficaro said. “We had to throw away a lot of toys, books and clothes.”
It’s been over eight months since Ida roared ashore — and the Ficaros’ home is still without walls. They were waiting on an insurance check before their insurer went under. In the meantime, they’ve been paying for an apartment on top of a mortgage.
“You just assume you pay for insurance all this time and you think they’re going to take care of you,” Nicole Ficaro said. “You never expect they’re just gone.”
In Louisiana, when companies go under, if the state can’t find another insurer to take over the claims, they’ll pay policyholders through the Louisiana Insurance Guaranty Fund, its safety net for failed companies.
“These folks will see, I do believe, better service and quicker payments because the Guaranty Fund has the money they need,” Donelon said. “Compared to the failing companies that were running out of money.”
Ficaro said she hoped she’ll see a check soon: “I just want to get my kids back in their home so they can do what kids are supposed to do and we can be home as a family.”
She also said it’s scary not knowing if her family will have insurance when hurricane season starts again.
The state has offered insurance to homeowners who aren’t approved for coverage by other companies. However, it’s considered a “market of last resort” because it’s the most expensive insurance in the state. After Hurricane Katrina, the state sponsored 173,000 policies.
“We know that’s going to expand again as folks are having a hard time getting coverage in coastal areas,” Donelon said. “We have seen an exodus of major national carriers from the gulf states.”
Donelon is optimistic that many insurance companies will return to the state after a few years of mild weather.
Colorado State University, however, is predicting this upcoming hurricane season will be another above-average year with 19 named storms.