Tornado insurance claims head to court in Oklahoma
At least 28 homeowners who were victims of twisters are suing their insurers for inadequate payments.
After devastating twisters ripped their way through Oklahoma, at least 28 homeowners have found that their tornado insurance payments have not been adequate to allow them to rebuild their homes or to move on to new ones equivalent to what they had before their lives were turned upside down.
The complaint isn’t that the payments aren’t being made, but that they aren’t paying enough to compensate for the damage.
One of the homeowners taking part in this tornado insurance claim lawsuit is Gabriel Bicerra, who was told by an adjuster that he could still live in his home despite the sagging ceiling, broken windows, and floors coated in debris. He stated that “You could see the walls wobble, they moved all around the house. It was ridiculous.” He added that “The adjuster said ‘we could patch this up.’”
This was only one of the many similar situations expressed by homeowners in this tornado insurance case.
Bicerra had insured his home of 15 years with Foremost Insurance, a subsidiary of Farmers. Though the city has since condemned the building and has torn it down, that insurer continues to insist that it was repairable. The claims have been denied by Farmers within the court filings.
According to the commissioner in the state, John Doak, it is not abnormal for some residents to have disputes with their insurers and for those cases to end up in court after a catastrophe as large as last May’s twisters in the Oklahoma City area. He explained that an element of a “natural catastrophe cycle” is that there will be a certain percentage that is “hopefully” small, which will be upgraded the dispute level to the point that it must reach the courts.
Commissioner Doak is encouraging homeowners involved in this type of tornado insurance situation to use the department’s EAGLE (Ending Arguments Gently, Legally, and Economically) in order to provide mediation. That program was developed after a number of twisters hit the state in May 1999 as a method of achieving rapid issue resolution.