Report: Allstate claim payment delays justified after 2005 storms

Published 12:22 am Sunday, February 25, 2007

Allstate Insurance Co.’s delays in adjusting claims in Louisiana after hurricanes Katrina and Rita were justified in light of “severe problems, impediments, roadblocks and hindrances” created by the storms, state insurance regulators said in a report issued Friday.

The Louisiana Department of Insurance examined a sample of 120 paid claims and 120 open claims by Allstate after the 2005 hurricanes and found nine instances of delayed payments. Those delays were not “arbitrary” or “capricious,” the department concluded.

With the exception of those nine delayed payments, Allstate complied with state laws, regulations and rules in handling of claims after Katrina and Rita, according to the department.

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“The magnitude of claim damage as a result of (Katrina and Rita) presented a unique challenge to any affected insurance company and the local, state and federal governments,” the 23-page report says.

Allstate spokesman Mike Siemienas declined to respond in detail to the department’s review, but said, “The exam by the Louisiana Department of Insurance of Allstate’s claims practices confirms that Allstate has been properly settling Hurricane Katrina and Rita claims with its Louisiana customers.”

The Northbrook, Ill.-based company is Louisiana’s second-largest home insurer behind State Farm Insurance Co. It has two major homeowner coverage companies in Louisiana — Allstate Indemnity Co. and Allstate Insurance Co. — that together write about 22 percent of the homeowner policies in the state.

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon ordered reviews of Allstate’s claims handling practices after his office fielded hundreds of complaints from consumers about delays in the adjustment and payment of claims.

Donelon said he was surprised that Allstate earned a “clean bill of health” considering the volume of consumer complaints.

“Anecdotally, I had heard an inordinate number of complaints reported to me (about Allstate),” he said. “Their share of complaints exceeded their market share.”

Donelon said he doesn’t dispute the report’s conclusions about Allstate’s claims handling practices. However, the commissioner noted that the review doesn’t take into account a recent rash of complaints about Allstate’s refusal to renew many policies this year.

Donelon said a follow-up review of Allstate’s non-renewal of policies is possible.

Donelon also ordered a “market conduct” review of St. Paul Travelers Cos., and a report on that company’s claims handling practices is due out in a couple of weeks, according to department spokeswoman Amy Whittington.

The department said Allstate’s ability to adjust claims was hampered by post-storm conditions, including mandatory evacuations, displaced customers, disrupted phone service, restricted access to properties and a lack of housing for catastrophe workers.

Those conditions mean “delays or lag times for adjusting Hurricane Katrina and Rita claims were justifiably lengthened with valid cause,” the report states.

Because of the magnitude of the disaster, Allstate relaxed some normal adjustment requirements “and attempted to settle the claims as expeditiously as possible,” the report also concludes.