Thursday, May 04, 2006

Allstate Calls Me A Liar

Today was a bad day, one of the worst in my life. We didn't receive any mail for two weeks, and then this afternoon we got about a month's worth. Included in the giant pile of overdue bills was the long awaited report from the engineers that Allstate hired. Hooray! I thought... The hurricane hit New Orleans August 29th, so that makes it 8 months and 6 days later. Our lives had been on hold waiting for this report. I opened the letter anxiously, thankful to finally have it in hand, thinking now that our drawn out problems with our insurance company would be over at last. Instead, it turns out that Allstate is denying our claim.

Let me be clear. Our home was insured for approximately $150,000 for wind (homeowners) and the same for flood. Allstate has already granted us 60,000 for the flood damage. The bigger problem is that the winds of Katrina racked our house. Moreover, the 3 weeks of saltwater did severe damage to our piers and that caused the house to lean even more. It will cost about $80,000 to straighten our house, and then on top of that, another $80,000 to redo the walls, electricity, floor, cabinets, and all the other damage from the flood. Of course these are estimates. Probably these estimates are low, because prices rise all the time here, and good luck finding a contractor. We thought for sure that Allstate would lie and claim that the flood caused our home to lean. That's because flood is backed with federal money, and so even though the wind was the major force that racked our house, Allstate would claim, we thought, that flood caused our home to lean, and we were fine with that. Pay us to fix the place, and if they could save some money by saying it was flood and not wind, and so be it.

But now Allstate is claiming that our house was structurally damaged before Katrina. I was here during Katrina, and being in the house was like being on a large boat. It moved considerably. So Allstate is claiming that I am a liar.

The Allstate engineer's report begins with a long segment explaining that the winds from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans were not powerful enough to cause a house to lean. Interestingly, this engineering firm hired by Allstate must be denying many similar claims, because in the lengthy section in which they explain the moderate nature of this storm, they refer to our residence as the "Wilson house." Oops! If anyone thinks I am a liar, as does Allstate, I would invite you to come to my neighborhood to witness many homes that are leaning the same direction as ours. For Christ's sake, take a look at the Superdome or any damaged building here and tell me, as these Allstate engineers are doing, that our home was not damaged by wind. Thanfully I shot some video footage that shows the incredible winds from Hurricane (sic!) Katrina.

Then they go on to say that our house was "out-of-plumb" prior to Katrina. They say the evidence from this comes primarily from the front door. To be able to open and shut our front door, back in October, I had to saw off a large portion of its corners. To get inside our house initially I had to kick the heck out of it just so it would open. So now our door is not a perfect rectangle. The door was obviously cut recently, so it as if they had their minds made up that they would deny our claim before entering our house and they were searching for evidence, weak as it is. They also say that upstairs they noticed windows that were not plumb and had been painted since being out of plumb. I invite anyone to find a 100-year-old house with perfectly symetrical 100-year-old windows.

It's hard not to get emotional with this. I am so tempted to write the engineers working for Allstate and tell them my honest opinion about the merit of their work. Similarly, I would love to write the engineers responsible for inspecting the levees. Allstate's engineers wanted nothing to do with me from the moment they were invited inside of my home. If they would have asked me about the door I could have explained it to them. But I don't think they were after the truth. I wonder if they sleep well at night thinking they are stopping fraudulent people like me from collecting on unjust insurance claims? I'll bet they are paid well. I'm sure Allstate will make a fortune by denying claims like ours, thinking people will just give up. God knows that life in general in New Orleans is difficult enought to make people give up. And you know, I would gladly have left the house in the same condition it was after Katrina, with mold and garbage all over the place without cutting the doors. But because we had insurance, FEMA would not pay our rent to live elsewhere. So we were forced financially to move back to this moldy and racked property. To make it livable for us and our kids Therese and I cleaned it extensively and made it so we could open and shut our front door. These engineers also had the nerve to claim that our original cypress floors didn't look extensively ruined; therefore, how could the structure be damaged from the flood? They also included a picture of a pier supporting our house that was in good shape. But they could have easily taken a picture of the many piers next to the solid one that had crumbled as the salt water sitting there for three weeks destroyed the mortar.

So now our complicated lives get more complicated. Tomorrow I try to find a public adjustor to take our case, and we have to hire an engineer and go to court to fight this mess. There is plenty of evidence, of course, that I am not a liar, and that our house was racked due to the winds of Hurricane (sic!) Katrina. We have pictures just months before the storm of a straight house. I miss that home. We have hundreds of pictures after Katrina of a racked house, with fresh cracks in the wood from separation. These Allstate engineers actually claim that the many recent cracks inside our house were caused by electricity being out for "at least three weeks following the hurricane. It is common for expansion and contraction of framing and finish materials to result in cracks like these due to temperature and humidity variations." That must be have been what happened to the Superdome roof as well. Forget all the video documenting that Hurricane Katrina was actually pretty damn windy. Go figure.

We have extensively documented that Allstate has been acting in bad faith. We have recorded in writing every phone call, or more accurately, every unreturned phone call we have made with Allstate. We have had to date six different claims adjusters assigned to our case. Some seem like nice enough people. In fact, I think our Allstate agent, Toni, is one of the finest people I have ever met. But they are representing a corporation that is treating us like crap on purpose to make more money. It all makes me wonder why we even had insurance. If we didn't, the government would be paying for us to live somewhere else right now. Allstate was one of the insurance companies that used Katrina as an excuse not to insure people in the Gulf Coast, even though they made record profits in 2005. According to Allstate VP Fred Cripe: "If last year's hurricane season had occurred 10 years ago, it would have been devastating for the company. Last year, it was merely disappointing." I'll tell you what is disappointing: it is having Allstate Insurance. It sucks!


  1. Anonymous8:42 AM

    Get a good plaintiff's attorney and sue their asses off. You can easily end up with much more than the cost of repairing your house. I wish I had my law degree and license. Write me for a recommendation if you need one.

  2. Anonymous12:05 PM

    I feel like typing a bunch of expletives here, but I won't. Instead I'll just say "don't give up." Not that you would. Channel your anger into fighting, and let me know if there's anything I can do to help.

    There certainly are lots of Katrina-racked houses in your neighborhood. Why, I just saw this picture on Flickr today.

  3. It makes me angry also. But I know we'll come out OK through all of this. What bothers me is how this applies to people with less resources than myself. I can see how the hassle causes many people to just move on, letting the insurance company off the hook. In fact, it sort of makes me laugh a bit more every time I reread the engineer's report. They actually claim the winds in my neighborhood were only about 30 miles per hour, and that our 100 year old Cypress board floor cleaned up nice, suggesting our house didn't flood bad enough to cause damage. And that some of the windows were out of plumb. I would love for them to find any 100-year-old window in a 100-year-old house that was plumb. And thanks to Dangerblond and others, we've contacted some pretty big name attorneys.

  4. Anonymous9:10 PM

    See links on investigation in Mississippi. Contact the Insurance Fraud division at Louisiana Dept. of Ins. I believe from what I have been told there is also an investigation ongoing.

  5. Anonymous9:21 PM

    Insurance companies learned long ago that if you deny every claim, a third will not come back; if you deny again, another big chunk will not come back. This is why we have punitive damages.

    It sickens me to see what is going on the insurance industry. A few years ago we had a hailstorm in N. Virginia that caused, on the whole, widespread cosmetic/superficial damage: dented siding on homes, dings in cars, shortened roof lives. But the collective political clout here so near Washington DC resulted in wholesale re-siding, re-roofing, new exterior lighting, you name it. Every contractor from Texas to Oregon sent teams in. The insurance companies took such a hit (completely re-siding houses that had a few dings on them, but the old siding couldn't be matched, etc.) that the feds had to bail them out. This in one of the most affluent counties (per capita income) in the country. Money has a lot to do with it, and New Orleans just doesn't have much. Plus, it's harder to muster your fighting reserves when there is no trash pickup, no neighbors, no grocery store, no mail, etc. I sure hope you and many others like you prevail.

  6. Anonymous4:07 PM

    I suffered no damage from either hurricane but I just got my renewal quote from Allstate. They have added abt. $500.00 to my rate because of the damages to others from Katrina. Now if they were actually paying off the claims they're getting from their homeowners I wouldn't be so incensed. But no, they're denying coverage left and right. And if I have a major claim - it will be the same story. What am I paying for?

  7. Anonymous6:46 PM

    Michael, did you ever get things sorted with Allstate? Your story sounds very similar to our's including the Haag engineering report. We were more fortunate as our home was not totaled but we have had an ongoing battle with Allstate to get enough money to start repairs. After 15 months we are within $20 K so are going to get started.... I have never seen so much lieing, deceit, and corportate greed as from Allstate over the last year.

  8. Still no resolution with Allstate. We are still waiting for a court date. The problem is widespread.

  9. Anonymous2:15 PM

    I just have to say that we're going through the same thing here in Houston after Hurricane just denied our claim on our "racked" home and said it was due to inadequate ventilation. Guess it's time to put on my boxing gloves!

  10. To Anonymous Above:
    Good luck. It's one of the most difficult thing you will ever have to do. I would advise you to keep a detailed journal about your interactions. Keep track of the number of appraisers and adjustors, and note their names and when they came. Keep track of the phone calls also. Then you need some very good legal advise, which I can't give.

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