West Virginia Insurance Head Implements Emergency Orders for June Storm Claims

By | July 7, 2016
Lt. Dennis Feazell, of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, keeps his boat on station as he and a co-worker search flooded homes in Rainelle, W. Va., Saturday, June 25, 2016. Heavy rains that pummeled West Virginia left multiple people dead, and authorities said Saturday that an unknown number of people in the hardest-hit county remained unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Lt. Dennis Feazell, of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, keeps his boat on station as he and a co-worker search flooded homes in Rainelle, W. Va., Saturday, June 25, 2016. Heavy rains that pummeled West Virginia left multiple people dead, and authorities said Saturday that an unknown number of people in the hardest-hit county remained unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Michael Riley has issued several emergency orders to address the response and claims handling process from severe flooding that hit the state June 23.

The three emergency orders signed and dated by Riley on June 28, 2016, apply to insurers operating in the state and include suspending the normal time frame for claims handling and settlement for claims arising from the recent catastrophic weather event.

The orders apply to the 44 counties where West Virginia Gov. Early Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency, including: Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monongalia, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wirt, Wood and Wyoming.

Initial damage assessments released July 1 by state officials said the floods destroyed 1,500 homes, ravaged 125 businesses and caused $36 million in damage to roads. Another 4,000 homes were damaged in the floods. In some areas, homes were swept off their foundations by raging flood waters, with some houses even catching fire. Many homes were filled with feet of muddy water.

In Emergency Order 16-EO-03, Riley suspended the normal time frames and procedures for claims handling and settlement related to the considerable damage caused by significant rainfall, rockslides, mudslides, and flooding to private and public property from the June 23 storm. The new claims rules address the following items:

  • Acknowledgement of notices of claims
  • Answer of inquiries from the insurance commissioner
  • Replies to other pertinent communications
  • Provisions of assistance to first-party claimants
  • Establishment of investigatory procedures
  • Duty after investigation
  • Notice of necessary delay in investigating claims
  • Unreasonable delay

The emergency order remains in effect for claims reported through and including August 15, 2016, unless extended by the commissioner.

The other two emergency orders also address the handling of the significant number of storm claims that insurers should expect to receive from the catastrophic event.

Emergency order 16-EO-04 authorizes the licensing of additional emergency adjusters to meet the demands of the public in the affected counties.

Adjusters must register by letter to the commissioner by the supervising adjuster of insurance company within 20 days of the date on which the non-licensed person is to begin adjusting activity. The registration will be valid for 90 days of the date of the registration letter, but an extension may be requested by the supervising adjuster or insurance company.

The final order, 16-EO-05 relates to the consideration of insurers and insurance-related entities when dealing with matters related to collection of premium, cancellation, nonrenewal, documentation or policy provisions of their customers in the flood-affected counties.

“Citizens of this state have suffered and continue to suffer and [insurers, producers and all other insurance related entities subject to regulation in West Virginia] should take such consideration into account when dealing with matters relating to [policies and claims],” the commissioner said in his emergency order.

The order notes that those affected by the devastation from the weather event may be unable to receive mail or respond to correspondence, or pay insurance premiums in a timely manner, and may need additional time to act or respond.

Riley ordered an extension of 30 days for insureds to respond to any notices sent or pay premiums due between June 23, 2016 and July 23, 2016. The order does further state that insureds with claims from the June 23 weather event must comply with their obligation to “provide information and cooperate in claim adjustment or investigative process related to the claim.”

This order remains in effect until July 23.

Complete details of the orders are available on the West Virginia Department of Insurance’s website.

Related:

Topics Claims Windstorm Flood Virginia West Virginia

About Amy O'Connor

O'Connor is the Southeast editor for Insurance Journal and associate editor of MyNewMarkets.com. More from Amy O'Connor

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