Not in good hands

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Not in good hands

Unread postby RatPak11 » Mon May 21, 2012 12:42 pm

http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Mari ... 571601.php

MariAn Gail Brown: Not in good hands
Updated 11:51 a.m., Monday, May 21, 2012

Tom Thorndike and Monica Clark put their Milford home in the care of the "Good Hands" folks at Allstate Insurance. They say they always paid their flood insurance premiums and kept their century-old house near Silver Sands beach in shape.

Their expectation was that if disaster ever struck and their home was damaged, Allstate would do what insurance companies are supposed to do -- pay out -- and in a timely manner. But it hasn't. And they're left feeling sucker-punched.

Tropical Storm Irene pushed the couple's home off its foundation last August. It now leans to one side. Part of the first floor heaves as though a bowling ball is trying to push through. The banister and stairs are pulling away from the wall. The city of Milford concluded that the house, which is insured for $215,000, sustained "substantial damage by the (Hurricane)/Storm Irene flood" that "equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure." An adjuster hired by the couple put a dollar value of $276,645.66 on the damage. Allstate? It can find only $50,101.85 in damages.

This defies reason.

"You pay and you pay and you pay these premiums," says Tom Thorndike. "You see them go up every year at renewal time. And you're sold this bill of goods that when you suffer an insurable loss, the policy will pay to put you back in the position you were in before the damage. That's what you expect. The reality is you get excuse after ridiculous excuse for why they won't pay. Nobody helps you. And you're left with no home, uncertainty about whether you will ever be able to rebuild, let alone ever occupying your house again. And everything about your future, where your family will live, is uncertain."

Every entity that ought to help the couple -- from Allstate to FEMA to the state Department of Insurance -- has informed them "there's nothing we can do to help" or "we have no jurisdiction." That's a copout. The couple have not received a penny from their flood insurance policy nine months after Irene. Their only recourse is to sue Allstate.

In general, if an insurer systematically low-balls policyholders' claims or refuses to negotiate in good faith, there are tort claims the state Department of Insurance can pursue. If you are a homeowner who is still battling with an insurer over the payout on your flood insurance from Irene, let the folks at the state Department of Insurance know. Now. Because what's happening to Thorndike and Clark might easily happen to you.

Days after Irene struck, Allstate sent a pair of independent adjusters, James and Jill Brown, to inspect the couple's house. The Browns met with the adjuster, Darren Toth, and combed through the property.

"`This is a no-brainer.' That's what they informed me," Toth says. "`This damage is clearly the result of the flood.' That was their conclusion. Four days later, I get a call from James Brown, telling me Allstate took them off the case and why," Toth says. "Allstate replaced them because it knew what their report was going to say. And it didn't like their determination."

Reached at a job site in Mississippi, Jill Brown recalls the couple's home and the work she and her husband performed. And she acknowledged that she and her husband had been removed from the case. "I don't remember the people, but I do remember the house. In our line of work, we keep very detailed records. We have to. And what I'd like to do is go through my files when I get home to talk further."

Jill Brown agreed to a phone interview that evening. When In Your Corner called at the appointed time, Brown's cellphone had an outbound message saying that it couldn't accept inbound calls at that time. Over the next two weeks, In Your Corner attempted to reach Brown about a dozen times and sent numerous text messages to her cellphone.

The Browns did not return a single call or text message. And the reason seems clear. They don't want to tick off Allstate.

Allstate declined to comment on the claim. Land-use experts for the city of Milford say the house is uninhabitable. The city won't let anyone live in it until the foundation is raised to put the structure above flood level.

There's up to $30,000 in aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for this, but Thorndike and Clark can't access this money until after they do the work. The estimated tab for raising a structure the size of their house is around $100,000.

With no realistic payout from their flood insurance, it's a safe bet that the federal money, which is only available for 18 months after a catastrophic event, will be out of their reach.

If you have had problems with your flood insurance or storm damage claims, notify the state Department of Insurance at cid.admin@ct.gov, via fax at 1-860-566-7410 or P.O Box 816, Hartford, CT 06142-0816. Make sure to include your full name, address of property, daytime and cell numbers.

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RatPak11
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