Insurance Complaints Grow in Wake of Tornadoes

By Chris Coffey
|  Monday, Dec 23, 2013  |  Updated 11:16 PM CDT
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A growing number of insurance-related complaints are being reported to the state as Washington and other tornado-affected communities in Illinois recover from November's severe weather that damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Chris Coffey reports.

A growing number of insurance-related complaints are being reported to the state as Washington and other tornado-affected communities in Illinois recover from November's severe weather that damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Chris Coffey reports.

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A growing number of insurance-related complaints are being reported to the state as Washington and other tornado-affected communities in Illinois recover from November's severe weather that damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Complaints to the Illinois Department of Insurance refer to delays and claim concerns even as contractors and roofers repair many of the damaged houses left standing after the tornado. The department has received seven complaints regarding tornado-related claims and anticipates more will be filed in upcoming weeks.

"Individuals will get a little antsy. They would like to have their homes replaced but depending on the severity there could be some delays," said Iris Canto of the Illinois Department of Insurance.

Much of the landscape of Washington remains littered with destruction. Boarded-up and tarp-covered homes take up huge sections of land.

Katie Beale owns one of the tarp-covered lots. Her home's foundation is all that remains after the tornado.

Beale said the plan is to rebuild her home, but there is a delay.

"We're taking every measure we can to protect the foundation because at this point there was a mistake with our insurance and the policy limits weren't set high enough to replace the foundation if it failed over the winter," Beale said.

NBC 5 Investigates spoke to another homeowner who said she could not come to a price agreement with her insurance provider regarding damage to her fence, siding and roof.

"We were disputing the scope of the damage," she said. "I've lost faith in the insurance company at this point."

Department of Insurance members do not act as attorneys but they urge consumers to contact the state regarding any insurance claim-related concerns.

"We pretty much try to help them with the insurance company, try to negotiate and see the best way to handle the claim and try to come to a resolution," Canto said.

The Illinois Insurance Association (IIA) represents insurance companies that responded to the tornado-ravaged areas. Executive director Kevin Martin said a lot goes into settling a claim and each claim is handled differently.

"I'm sure there could be some people who aren't 100 percent satisfied, but overall, the companies did a very good job of satisfying the people who had claims," IIA executive director Kevin Martin said.

Other affected homeowners may be finding they were under-insured, according to a volunteer who is helping residents in Washington recover from the tornado.

"If you happen to be one of the homeowners who has three houses worth of debris on your lot, $1500 isn't going to do it," said volunteer coordinator April Crotts.

Canto urges others who live in potentially tornado-prone areas to take action now to avoid any insurance pitfalls down the road. She said property owners should be familiar with their insurance policies and know what it would cost to replace your home.

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