Louisiana lawmakers advance bills to tackle adjuster swapping, insurer communication following storms

BLAKE PATERSON | Staff writer

Lawmakers took their first steps Wednesday toward reining in how property insurers do business in Louisiana, advancing out of committee a series of proposals that regulate how insurance companies respond to policyholders in the aftermath of a catastrophe.

Following two years of devastating hurricanes, lawmakers said the No. 1 complaint they’ve heard against insurers has to do with the seemingly endless churn of adjusters assigned to assess damage. With each new adjuster, the claims process essentially starts over.

“It’s absolutely maddening,” said state Sen. Jeremy Stine, R-Lake Charles, who spoke of a friend now on his thirteenth adjuster.

To address the issue, lawmakers advanced Senate Bill 198, which would require an insurer to send a written progress report – and provide a primary point of contact – to policyholders once a third adjuster is assigned within a six-month period.

“I think they’ll look at this and realize they need to be judicious on who they appoint on a claim,” said Warren Byrd, deputy commissioner at the Louisiana Department of Insurance.

Another proposal that passed out of committee, Senate Bill 163, would require insurers to send a fact sheet to policyholders, explaining the ins-and-outs of the claims process, after a catastrophe. Its author, Senate Insurance Chairman Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, admitted that even for him, the claims process is confusing.

The disclosure form, which would be promulgated by the commissioner of insurance, would also explain how to file a complaint with state regulators and detail the rights and protections a policyholder has under state law.

“We think it can make claims go a lot smoother,” said Benjamin Albright, a lobbyist with the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Louisiana.

Another measure, Senate Bill 212, authored by Stine, would establish a voluntary mediation program for policyholders and insurers to resolve their disputes. The legislation is modeled after a program set up by the Department of Insurance following Hurricane … Continue Reading Full Story >>>

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