MID researching oil damage/hurricane claims - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

MID researching oil damage/hurricane claims

By Mike Chaney
Commissioner of Insurance

JACKSON, MS - Recently in Mississippi, it almost seems that events are conspiring to test our mettle, our courage and our resolve. While our Gulf Coast is still striving to recover from Hurricane Katrina, tornadoes have blasted the central part of our state, including a huge storm that claimed 10 lives and left a path of destruction almost a mile wide in Yazoo, Holmes and Choctaw counties.

If this weren't enough, a massive oil spill keeps growing and threatening the Gulf Coast's beaches and marshes and endangering the livelihoods of all our citizens who make their living from tourism and the waters off our coast. And the economic downturn continues to be a challenge for our state and local government budgets.

But despite what these events are throwing at us, we continue, as a state, to persevere. Homes are being rebuilt. Businesses are re-opening and our people are continuing to try to put their lives back in order.

The MID is doing all we can to help. The department has for the past several weeks been in consultation with experts concerning the Gulf oil spill with regards to insurance.

Also, we have been thoroughly briefed on the spill and the potential for losses to private landowners along the coast. We have been actively researching the ramifications of those losses and the responsibility for making injured parties whole.

Our belief at this time is that BP LLC will bear full responsibility for paying these damages from oil washing ashore and the Mississippi Insurance Department will continue to watch as this situation develops.

Thousands of Mississippians have already filed claims with BP, and over $4 million has been paid out. BP has opened three Mississippi community outreach offices and three Mississippi claims offices.

As of this writing the oil has come ashore in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida and is beginning to show up in our Mississippi waters and there is a concern about property damage should a hurricane wash oil and water ashore.

The National Flood Insurance Program coverage on homes would pay up to policy limits for damage to structure and contents. However, NFIP policies provide no coverage for testing or monitoring of pollutants or damage to lawns.

With that in mind the MID has also been analyzing private insurance policies in an effort to determine what they will cover. These policies typically cover wind-driven rain that invades a breached structure, but will oily or acid rain be covered? Our research on this critical issue will continue as we try to get ahead of the curve and let local homeowners know what can be expected.

When the tornadoes hit on a weekend earlier this spring and left a huge area of damage in central Mississippi, representatives of the Mississippi Insurance Department were on the ground within hours, offering everything from bottled water and granola bars to advice and assistance with homeowner insurance policies.

In the aftermath of the storm there were 1,389 property claims reported for a total property loss of $10,086,516 with the average loss to homeowners at $7,261. There were also 559 claims for damage to automobiles with an average loss of $1,733.51 per vehicle for a total of $969,035. Our representatives were able to help track these damages, lend assistance in filing claims and ensure that claims were paid in a timely fashion.

On the economic front our state, like most in the United States, is struggling. Tax collections continue to be far below expectations and unemployment remains high. Agencies and departments are struggling with reduced budgets while continuing to provide services at the highest possible level.

MID is also struggling with the tough economy and lowered budgets but will continue to provide services at the highest possible level. Mother Nature will probably keep testing us and mistakes by humans will continue to plague us, but Mississippians have shown themselves to be resilient and strong and I firmly believe we will continue to grow and prosper as a state.

We at the Mississippi Insurance Department will continue to do all we can to help with the progress.

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