If only insurance companies were as concerned about the people they insure as they are about the profit margin. Whatever happened to doing the right thing by those who do business with you?
I recently met with a jewel of a lady. She has lived 80 years on this Earth, and she had a large part of her charming home devastated by the Joplin tornado. She came to see me with a story that outraged me.
Her home dangerous and unlivable, it had been evaluated by two separate adjusters from her insurance company and two separate independent Joplin contractors. She was initially told her home was a total loss. Then some ‘forensics’ joker from the northeast comes in at the beckoning of her insurance company, goes through each square foot of the home, concludes that it can be repaired at about 30% of the total value - and by the way he was going to depreciate that another 25%, despite her having purchased a replacement policy.
She could not understand how her insurance company — who she and her recently deceased husband had paid premiums to for over 30 years - could do this to her. They were putting her in an impossible predicament. How could she live in a home that local adjusters with the same company had said was unlivable and that two contractors had told her needed to be bulldozed?
I was struck by that bull-dogged determined optimism that characterizes so many in our Joplin community. This is not a lady who gives up. Perhaps her insurance company and its supposed forensic expert thought she was easy pickings, given that she was a recent widow and in her 80s. She wanted nothing other than what she had bargained and paid for - insurance against the sudden loss of her home. The insurance company wants instead to save a few bucks on someone who needs it the most.
It sometimes takes a tragedy for someone to read their insurance policy for the first time. Insurance policies can seem like they are written in a foreign language. The insurance company commonly lists more exclusions from coverage in the policy than what it describes as being covered. Sometimes the promises of coverage are contradicted by other parts that deny coverage. When the policy is so confusing that it seems to take away in one part what it gives in another, this is called an ‘ambiguity’. The Courts in Missouri interpret these ambiguities against the insurance company to require that it provide the insurance for which one has paid.
Insurance company greed is a sad symptom of the times. AIG gets bailed out. Wall Street execs continue to receive their golden parachutes. Too many politicians cater to lobbies whose idea of ‘doing the right thing’ ignores real world survivors in favor of keeping rich insurance CEOs wealthy.
But this behavior won’t stand in Joplin, Missouri. This lady will have to fight for it, but her insurance company won’t get away with taking away the life savings that she had in the equity in her home and the belongings she and her husband worked so hard to secure.
Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci
510 West 6th
Joplin, Missouri 64801