Texans Encouraged to Report Insurance Abuse to “Ike Insurance Hotline”: 1-888-738-4226 (Staffed M-F, 9 am to 5 pm CST)

In the coming days and weeks, homeowners will begin to return home and assess the damage caused by Hurricane Ike. Texas Watch encourages homeowners to be take some important steps when dealing with their insurance company:

• Take Documentation. Make a comprehensive inventory of the household items lost in the storm, and keep receipts from emergency repairs and temporary housing costs.

• Track Communications with Your Insurance Company. Keep a log of all communications with your insurance carrier, including anytime they fail to return a call or miss a scheduled appointment.

• Be Careful What You Sign. Do not sign anything you do not fully understand. Make sure all documents are explained thoroughly so that you know what you are signing and how it will affect your claim.

• Ask for Proof. If your insurer tells you that you are not covered, require them to offer proof. The burden is on the carrier to point to the exclusion in your policy.

• Complain if Necessary. If you believe that you are being treated unfairly by your insurance carrier, file a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance and/or the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Contact Texas Watch’s Ike Insurance Hotline at 1-888-738-4226 for assistance in filing complaints. Texas Watch’s toll free IKE INSURANCE HOTLINE (1-888-738-4226) will be clearinghouse of information and a way to compile information about potential insurance abuse.

Texas Watch will not be able to directly solve victims’ insurance problems; however, it will monitor complaints and refer them to the appropriate government agencies, such as the Texas Department of Insurance and the Texas Attorney General’s office. “Homeowners must be vigilant when dealing with their insurance company, especially after a major disaster like Ike,” said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, a statewide consumer advocacy organization active on insurance matters. “Insurance abuse was prevalent after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and Ike’s victims must take steps to protect themselves from unscrupulous insurance practices.”

Homeowners with internet access can also go online to www.TexasWatch.org/Ike to find useful tips on dealing with their insurance company and to share their insurance related stories. After Katrina, our network partner Americans for Insurance Reform helped victims of insurance abuse file complaints and raise awareness about the industry’s actions. As a result, several news outlets reported that insurance companies were requiring policyholders to sign documents that would severely limit their ability to be fully compensated for their covered loss. This deceptive activity prompted the Mississippi Attorney General to take swift action. “We hope that insurers learned their lesson,” said Winslow. “But, if they didn’t, then policyholders must speak up and our state officials must step up.” The hotline will be staffed Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM, CST.