Flood Program Agrees to Review Maryland Complaints

March 18, 2004

Maryland’s insurance commissioner has forwarded dozens of complaints from Tropical Storm Isabel victims to the head of the National Flood Insurance Program, and both men said the agency will review those files and correct any flawed settlements.

Alfred W. Redmer Jr., Maryland insurance commissioner, said he will also arrange for several storm victims who have had problems with the federal flood program to meet with the officials who run it. Redmer said he is confident that the program’s director, Anthony S. Lowe, is sincere in his desire to help Isabel victims.

“I think we’re going to get some action,'”Redmer said. “I’m just sorry I didn’t call him a month earlier.'”

Lowe said he has directed his staff to review the 80 files Redmer handed over to determine whether the agents, adjusters or others involved in settling the claims made errors. If so, he said, the settlements will be corrected.

“This is a real activity we’re undertaking,” Lowe said. “This isn’t a thought exercise.”

James Shortley, NFIP director of claims, said he has begun reviewing Redmer’s files. He said he has found some complaints about damages that are not covered by the standard flood insurance policy, but also others about adjusters failing to recommend payment for items that should have been covered or underestimating the cost to repair homes.

The flood program has received more than $300 million in claims for Isabel-related damage in six states and the District of Columbia.

In December, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. hired Redmer’s predecessor, Steven B. Larsen, to conduct a study of post-Isabel insurance issues and to recommend legislation to help victims and prevent problems in future storms. At the time, he criticized Redmer for not doing enough to help.

Last month, Larsen released his own report detailing widespread ignorance of flood policy details by consumers, insurance agents and adjusters, and a lack of coordination among federal, state and local officials. He also said many of those he surveyed reported that settlement offers were short of the money needed to rebuild, often by tens of thousands of dollars.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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