Patience a must during insurance claim process
by Shaka S. Lias
May 09, 2011 | 3702 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Patrick Joyce, left, walks his property with Ted Regan from the State Farm insurance company’s catastrophe team. 
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Patrick Joyce, left, walks his property with Ted Regan from the State Farm insurance company’s catastrophe team. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
"Insurance is something that you buy and you hope you never have to use it, but when you do need it it's good to have a very solid company that you can call on," State Farm agent Mark McGinnis said.

Since the tornado touched down in Bartow County on April 27, McGinnis and his team have been busy assisting storm victims.

McGinnis said the three worst areas he's visited were Dana Way, Crowe Spring Spur and Spring Place Road.

"It's a human tragedy to see all this debris everywhere and people's lives in trees and swamps," McGinnis said.

He said he's amazed to see all the individuals, organizations and churches that lent a helping hand.

"That's more amazing to me than the devastation because what a wonderful community we have here," he said.

As of Friday, McGinnis was assisting 65 clients whose homes were damaged in the storm, three of those homes were totally damaged and six families had to temporarily move out due to roof damage.

McGinnis said patience is a virtue during the claims process.

He said the first thing a client should do is protect themselves, then call their agent. He advises homeowners examine the roof from the ground.

"If it needs to be tarped, the agent can recommend some local contractors that are trusted to tarp the roof in order to eliminate any further loss to the interior of the home," McGinnis said.

Forty additional State Farm agents have been called in from other states to assist in Bartow County. McGinnis said they are working in what is called a catastrophe unit and assigned to claims.

"They may have 40 claims. Of those claims, several may be classified as Severity One, which means they are the most damaged, inhabitable homes," McGinnis said.

Those homes will have to be examined with an eagle view. McGinnis explains an eagle view as a satellite camera that gives a good idea and dimension of the home.

McGinnis, who has worked in insurance for the past 20 years and worked claims for Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew, said tornadoes are different.

"The claims [process] is so meticulous. It's not a hail storm that comes through and damages windows," he said. With hail storms the adjuster may be able to do 12 roofs a day and settle. However, with tornadoes, claims take more time.

"Adjusters have to walk around home, scope damage from the ground up and come up with an estimate to rebuild a home. Patience is a virtue for our policy owners at this time," he said.

McGinnis said they are getting to them as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, for homes that are inhabitable, the homeowners have been given checks so they can get items they need for the time being.

"Check books might have blown away, banks may be closed -- it gives them funds to provide for temporary housing," McGinnis said. Coverage applies to all of that, he said.

McGinnis advises homeowners to video record the interior of their home and personal property and keep it in a safe deposit box or give to an agent. That way everything is documented in case of a storm.

"When these things come through they may find your personal property in Tennessee and you don't have any way of documenting it," McGinnis said.

He said many times people forget what they have because over the years things pile up in attics and basements.

"We want to make sure we get them back to where they were and make them whole," he said. "If they forget something we can't help make them whole again."

McGinnis said it's times like this when the work kicks in. "It's the most satisfying part of our job, to be here when you need us most," he said. In addition to working on claims, McGinnis and his team has been delivering sandwiches, water and biscuits and doing anything to help out.

"This is where we go to work and keep the promise to our policy holders that we made when they bought this policy," he said.

McGinnis said they made a promise to their clients that if anything happened to them they would be there for them.

"This really gives us our opportunity to show them that we care about them. That is the most satisfying part of my job," he said.