The Norman Transcript

August 18, 2013

Tornado victims work through insurance hurdles

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — MOORE -- Numerous insurance companies, Oklahoma Emergency Management, FEMA and the Oklahoma Bankers Association set up Saturday at Southmoore High School to answer any questions those affected by the May tornadoes might have had.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said “Recovery Roundup” was a chance to talk through some very difficult claims.

“Right now consumers are finding out that their homes may be 49 percent totaled and the consumer believes that should be 100 percent totaled,” Doak said. “The folks across the street have had their homes totaled and theirs may not be totaled.”

Doak said the homes get difficult to claim for insurers because of the damage path of the storm. While some homes are leveled down to the slab, others may only have minor damage.

“At some point there has to be some critical decision making of structural engineers on if a home is totaled or repairable and we’re trying to work through all of those to invest accountability with consumers and the industry based upon contract and terms and conditions to be able to fulfill those obligations that they made while consumers have paid premiums on them all these years,” he said.

Moore residents Bobby and Theta Best are going through a different type of difficult insurance claim regarding the contents of their home. With rainstorms passing through the area for days after the tornado and police keeping the area on lock down, they had a difficult time salvaging things and several things were stolen.  

Bobby Best said police would not tell them why the area was locked down when he tried to get back to his house the days following.

“Three or four days later, after the rain and all the damage to my pictures and everything – we could have saved some of it, rusty guns, stuff like that we could have saved,” Best said. “We finally got in after four days, we’re there for four hours but then they locked it down again.”

This time the reason was for electrical work, which he said he understood because electricity needed to be back on for businesses. That doesn’t change the fact that with nobody at the property, looters had the opportunity to hit their house.

Best said they had an air conditioning unit stolen, several cans of gas and other items. Some contents of their home they went through and sat at the front of the house was also gone when they returned to the house.

“I don’t know how they got that air conditioner stuff out of there, I really don’t. But it was gone, everything. It’s just disgusting,” he said. “This damage was when no one was there and they wouldn’t let anyone in.”

Now they’re going through and itemizing everything they owned. Best said they have to list when they bought it, where they bought it and how much they paid for it. Spending over 20 years in the military buying things in Germany, Africa, Italy and all over the world hasn’t made the process easy either, he said.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in all my life,” Theta Best said regarding the itemization of everything.

Bobby Best said they feel like the process they went through today could help them out, but they’re still a little skeptical.

Commissioner Doak said they have filed over 92,000 claims totaling more than $1 billion in insurance payments and hope to continue the process and help those affected.

“We’re going to stay here and the industries are going to stay here until the last claim is made,” Doak said. “We’re here to protect Oklahoma consumers and we’re going to facilitate these town halls and our field reps.”

He said they had approximately 20 to 25 people from the insurance department at the event from legal to consumer service departments that will be tracking the ongoing issues.

The City of Moore and City of Oklahoma City were also there to answer any questions on Saturday.

City of Moore City Manager Steve Eddy said the event was a good opportunity for people to talk to insurance representatives face to face if they were having any difficulties or issues with insurance settlements.

“Particularly now since we’re trying to get through and push people to take care of houses that are still standing that definitely shouldn’t be still standing,” Eddy said.

Eric Wenger, city engineer for the City of Oklahoma City, said they had a number of people stop by on Saturday to ask them questions about the rebuilding process, which was encouraging. They are going to continue to reach out to the community affected to provide them with the resources they need, he said.

“The rebuilding is underway and the cleanup for the tornado is nearly complete,” Wenger said. “At this point, everybody who wanted to rebuild has the opportunity to rebuild.”

For more information about the Oklahoma Insurance Commission visit www.oid.ok.gov.

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com