Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Haag Engineering: An Insurer's Best Friend

Following Hurricane Katrina, the third of our many Allstate adjusters finally made it to our house in October. He immediately noted the obvious structural damage to our house, and he put in an order for an engineer. Allstate hired Haag Engineering to examine our residence, which meant nothing to me at the time. When the two representatives from Haag finally showed up at our house on February 23rd, we were overjoyed. Finally, six months after the storm, we could get their assessment of whether it was wind or flood waters that racked our house. We knew that the severe winds from Katrina caused the structural damage, but everyone from Allstate who we dealt with indicated they would total it out from flood, because that wouldn't cost Allstate any money as flood is backed with federal funds. We were in the unusual position of having both wind and flood policies. "Lucky us" we naively thought. The representatives from Haag only stayed at our house a short time, just 15 minutes, and wanted no interaction from us. They were rude we thought, but maybe we had been living in the south too long and our expectations for kind small talk weren't realistic. Anyway, two months go by, and we're still waiting on their report to be filed. Mind you, people have long since gutted their houses and begun the long and tedious process of making the many necessary repairs. For those of us who had flooded houses, we basically need to gut them, treat the studs, redo all the plumbing and electricity, and then put in new walls, floors, and ceilings. But we also have structural problems, and we can't do any of the other things until we address this with our insurance company. Finally, in the mail on May 4th I received a letter from Allstate stating that they are denying our claim for any structural damage based on the Haag report, which was attached. That was one of the worst days of my life, but fortunately for us, the report from Haag was full of mistakes. For example, they refered to our house as "The Wilson house" and had pictures that weren't from our house. Also they claim things like it wasn't windy enough during Katrina to cause a house to lean, and that the many new cracks in our interior were caused from a lack of air conditioning for 3 weeks. They also ignored the most obvious evidence that our house was recently racked.

So we were heartbroken and furious, and we decided to fight back against Allstate.

Since those dark days following the claim denial, I've come to learn that Haag is infamous for being in the pockets of the insurance industry. Their spokesperson lately has been Timothy Marshall, who is Haag's damage and failure consultant. He wrote the "Hurricane Katrina Damage Survey" that insurance companies have routinely purchased as "expert testimony" and used to deny claims. By the way, Haag's online store now advertises that the book is 1/2 price at $75 "While supplies last!" Marshall's survey concludes that sustained winds were below Category 3 and that there was no tornado damage along the coast. Mind you, there is a mountain of more qualified "experts" who say that sustained winds were in the Category 4-5 range, and that there were plenty of tornados. So this one man's biased work is the primary tool used by insurance companies to deny people's wind claims, as the insurers say all of the damage was done by flood.

I'm not sure about quite a bit in this whole process. I don't know why the representatives from Haag didn't total our house out from flood damage. However, in their report they actually question whether our house flooded, though the debris line marking 3 feet of water inside is obvious on every house in the neighborhood. I don't know how people like Timothy Marshall or the two representatives of Haag who came to our house justify what they do for a living, or how they are able to sleep at night knowing that they are seriously harming thousands of people. I'm also not sure why we even had insurance. In many ways we would be better off at this point without it. FEMA would have paid for us to live elsewhere during this whole process, and we could have still received money from the Louisiana Road Home to repair our house. Right now we owe about $150,000 on a mortgage for a house that as-is would go for approximately $40,000. But we're confident, still, that in the end we'll find justice and Allstate will pay us. However, I think with great sadness about all of the people who for many reasons would just take the initial denial based on "expert" engineers from Haag and give up.

LINKS RELATED TO HAAG ENGINEERING
Several articles in a series about Haag Engineering from South Mississippi's Sun Herald Newspaper:
"Engineer Chases Storms" about Timothy Marshall from Haag (August 1, 2006 by Anita Lee)
"Experts Disagree on Winds" about Marshall's "Hurricane Katrina Damage Survey" and those who disagree (August 1, 2006, by Anita Lee)
"Engineers Called Into Question After Another Historic Catastrophe" about how Haag and even Timothy Marshall did the same thing after Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina in 1989 (July 31, 2006 by Anita Lee)
Damaging Opinions about how an Oklahoma attorney successfully battled State Farm on behalf of tornado victims. State Farm had previously denied their claims based on a report by, you guessed it, Haag Engineering (July 30, 2006 by Anita Lee)
"Saffir: 'Wind Damage Considerable'" about how Herbert Saffir (from the famous Saffir-Simpson scale) said that "wind certainly caused a considerable amount of damage on the Gulf Coast before any wave action or storm surge." (August 1, 2006, by Anita Lee)

NPR story about the "Slingshot Group" from Diamondhead MS who like David vs Goliath, are fighting the insurance industry. The residents say homes were damaged by winds, the companies say the damage was flood.

"Allstate Accused of Cheating Claiments" about the infamous "McKinsey Documents" used by Allstate to cheat clients. (by Brandon Ortiz from Lexington Herald)

"Nearly 700 File Suite Over Denied Katrina Claim" about Dickie Scrugg's lawsuit which claims State Farm “extorted” engineering firms by refusing to pay them if their conclusions conflicted the HAAG report. In addition, the action accuses the insurer of hiding or shredding engineering reports that blamed damage on wind. The lawsuit also claims “State Farm intentionally suborned and encouraged the corruption of scientific investigation and accepted physical realities ... to achieve the desired result of blanket denials of coverage.” (by AP, May 9th, 2006)

18 Comments:

Blogger LisaPal said...

Outstanding post, Michael. Thanks for all those great links at the end.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Horrible, still thinking of you. Don't let the b***** get you down!

3:12 PM  
Blogger Loki said...

Horrible. My heart goes out to you and your lovely family, Michael. I wish that stories like this were not as common as they are.

Is it only me, or does it seem very much as though we are under seige? The beurocrats are outside the city walls catapaulting faulty paperwork into our perimeter....

12:20 PM  
Anonymous julie said...

I see that Judge Senter ruled in favor of Nationwide in the Leonard case. The Judge agreed with Tim Marshall that the house told the story and was flooded by Katrina's storm surge. I wish everyone had flood insurance along the coast.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

""The Judge agreed with Tim Marshall that the house told the story and was flooded by Katrina's storm surge.""

The judge also agreed in trial that Marshall had misrepresented his educational background to the court. That the wind speeds Marshall had noted were not correct as they were too low and that Marshall's testimomy was not used in the Judge's opinion. I don't see anywhere in the ruling where he agreed with Tim Marshall.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Warren Taylor said...

Mr. Homan, I wonder if you'd share your Haag report with me. I'm following another Haag claim in Iowa. Same B.S. Thank you,
Warren Taylor
P O Box 2238
Vashon WA 98070

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might check to see if those two engineers were registered in your state, and if not, who signed the report for them...

2:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hold strong and don't waver in your efforts, the truth will become public in january after the first cases of deliberate fraud by the largest insurer in the state of mississippi is exposed. The public will be shocked once again.

sincerely, the one with proof!

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are an Idiot and should run out an hire a public adjuster and sign his contract charging you hundreds of dollars and giving him 15-25% of any settlement. Then he will interpitate your policy and show you that your policy does not cover your loss. Then spend tens of thousands of dollars hiring attorneys and engineers to prove that you still dont have a case and/or claim for your damages because the storm surge along the coastal areas did the damages.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

Um, well I'm not exactly sure how to respond to anonymous above. The damage in my house has little to do with storm surge. We could debate whether the structural damage to my house was caused by wind or flood, but Allstate insured me for both. Haag is saying that our house was leaning like it is, about 2 degrees, before Katrina. It wasn't.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Eddie said...

MIchael,

I am getting ready to go to trial w Allstate and was doing a little research on the web and came across this post. I swear i could have written it myself as my story is EXACTLY the same. I am wondering if you have made any progress or what research you may have come up with. I know Haag was found liable in another court case for altering their reports in favor of the insurance companies. I woldlove to talk to you about this. I am getting the impression they are either incompetent or have been given orders to perform a certain way. I had 5 engineers look at my property since HAag and all have said the same thing, wind damage and yet Haag concludes flood. Amazing!

2:09 PM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

Eddie, give me a call at 504 377 7284 if you would like to talk. My dad is quite ill and I'm in NE away from my files, but let's exchange insurance horror stories

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know provides Haag's professional liability insurance (errors and omissions?)

4:01 PM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

Good question, I don't know.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous ViolentPlains said...

I am very sorry for everyone that suffered losses in Katrina. Suffering a lose like that then having to deal with the insurance companies afterwards must be horrible. But as someone that studies and observes tornadoes and wind events it is painfully obvious that the virtually all the damage caused alone the Gulf Coast was from storm surge. That is the simple truth and many more will die in the next hurricane storm surge event if people buy into the wind damage lies. Tim Marshall is the worlds foremost expert on structural failure due to weather. My point is that he knows his stuff and tells the truth even if it isn't what everyone wants to hear.

Scott
www.violentplains.com

10:05 PM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

Scott, as you know, there are often many tornados that develop during hurricanes. Also I don't think that Tim Marshall is a very objective source. He profits from his so-called expert status by arriving right away after storms and documenting that it wasn't so windy. But from experience it is the gusts that do the damage and not sustained winds. I checked out your webpage, and it's pretty hardcore. I have many memories of tornados in Nebraska.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Doug McCray said...

Mr. Homan:
HAAG certified engineers are causing all sorts of grief in Michigan, as well. I am on the other side of the fence, representing homeowners and businesses whose claims have been denied, frequently based on specious engineering reports. I would love to have a copy of the report indicating Katrina's winds were insufficient to cause a house to lean, which I would attach as an exhibit to motions when HAAG engineers are trying to help the insurer avoid paying my clients' claims. Is there a way you could get me a copy? Email would be fine. Thanks,

Doug McCray, McCray Law Office PLLC, dmccray88@comcast.net.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your post today when doing my own research on Haag Engineering in Clermont, Fl area. I filed a claim for roof damage from a hail storm in July. Homes all over my neighborhood, including neighbors on each side of me, and houses across the street and behind, are having their roofs replaced through their home owners insurance. I have 46 areas of damage on a small 1200 sq ft house roof. My damage is double the damage of other homes. American Integrity denied my claim. The shingles and color are no longer available, so my roof will look like a patchwork quilt, which the HOA will not allow. That will lower the value of my home, and further weaken my roof. Two other homes in the neighborhood also were denied by the same company. Talked to an attorney today and he has a HUGE file of suits currently against American Integrity. He told me it was the worse insurance company to pay any claims, and to settle any claims. Haag Engineering seems to be in bed with the insurance company helping them to justify their denial for claims. Now I am reading many crooked tactics about Haag Engineering helping insurance companies. How come they continue to get away with this scam? Horrible!!

12:42 AM  

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