Wednesday, October 04, 2006
400 Days of Getting Screwed by Allstate
Our house in Mid-City New Orleans has still not been gutted since it flooded 400 days ago. While many families are now moving back into their renovated homes, we haven't even begun the long and arduous process of rebuilding. Once we are able to start, we are optimistic in thinking that it will take about 10 months to do all the necessary work. We cleaned out the mucky gunk left by the flood downstairs, and mostly we spend our time upstairs. If we gutted our house, we've been told, it would fall over, as it is severely leaning because of the winds of Katrina and needs to straightened. The plaster and lathe are helping to keep it standing. We have a FEMA trailer that arrived recently in front of our house, and we're still waiting on a few things such as a key before that will be operational. We also have decided to rent an apartment because there is no way that the four of us could survive in the tiny white box. The plan is that Therese and the kids will spend most of their time in the apartment with all of our "stuff", and I will sort of keep an eye on the dogs and the house using the FEMA trailer as a base of operation. It won't be easy. We plan on moving our stuff to the apartment in mid-October. The apartment is pretty small so we might need a storage facility. Therese was freaking out about this yesterday. She would love to move into a house that never flooded and severe all ties with the flooded house. That sounds tempting to me also. However, we can't afford houses that didn't flood, or even renovated houses, as the prices have skyrocketed. Also, from a financial perspective, we really need to fix our house. We owe about $150,000 on the mortgage, and in the present condition it is worth about $30,000. If our house was renovated it would be worth $300,000 I would estimate. So we're stuck. I think I'll keep a bed and a radio and a few other things for when I stay at the house/trailer. We decided to sue Allstate Insurance over the wind damage portion of our claim. We are supposed to get a trial date set October 5th, so tomorrow we'll know more about that. I'm confident that we will win that case. But we were handling the flood portion of our claim on our own. That wasn't by choice, it's just that our attorney refused to handle flood because it is a federal issue and very messy. Depending on whether the state or federal courts hear our case about wind, he will get us an attorney to handle flood. The original flood adjuster made many mistakes to save Allstate money. For example, he said our kitchen was 2 feet wide instead of 12. Actually, we've had about nine adjusters so far. It's a real shell game. They send forms to the wrong addresses, anything to delay the process. In any event, we submitted a proof of loss for flood, and Allstate opened a "supplemental" claim instead of addressing the proof of loss. We believe Allstate owes us an additional $80,000 to fix the structural damage, but even so, the house should be totaled out from flood alone. Allstate said that they still owed us an additional $7000 to cover the mistakes that were made in the first adjustor's claim. But they are saying they won't give us that money unless we sign two forms that basically get Allstate off the hook for any past and future mistakes. It's as if they dangle this money in front of you, and you sign for it unknowingly saying in legalise that Allstate has acted ethically and you are happy with the payments for flood and won't bother them again. Several attorneys told me not to sign it because my signature would waive my right to claim that Allstate has been acting fraudulently and they would use it against us in our homeowner's case. In Theology class today we were talking about hatred and forgiveness. My student asked me who I hated. I thought about it for a long time and I said "I hate Allstate. Not the individuals who work for that company, as some of them seem nice, but the company as a whole I believe is acting in bad faith, breaking the law, and making many people suffer so that the corporation can make more money. For them it is profit at any cost." People in America think they are insured, but they really have no way of knowing until something horrible happens. I wish them luck as they'll need it. Poorly built levees in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Allstate Insurance, and Haag Engineering, all of these things together have created my own personal perfect storm.