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franklin county times

Ivan pounds pocketbooks

By Staff
HURRICANE DAMAGE Michele Pearson, with Pearson &Company Insurance, a GuideOne agency, makes notes on damage made to one of the homes insured by her company. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star.
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
October 3, 2004
Natalie Busbee had a lot on her mind unpacking boxes, decorating her new house and preparing for a November wedding.
Then, two weeks ago, Busbee's life became more complicated. Less than 13 days after closing on her new home, Hurricane Ivan made landfall in Gulf Shores, Ala., moved north and sideswiped East Central Mississippi.
Hours after tropical storm-force winds subsided on Sept. 16, Busbee added a new item to her list of activities: Filing an insurance claim to help pay for the $15,000 in damages to her new home.
Ivan blew a tree on Busbee's 5114 Northview Drive home at about 7 a.m. the day the storm struck. The tree landed on the front porch and ripped part of the roof, causing major electrical, wall, flooring and roof damage.
Storm claims
Busbee is among hundreds of residents in Meridian and East Central Mississippi who have filed insurance claims related to Ivan. State insurance officials could not estimate how many total claims have been filed.
A number was available from one company, Farm Bureau Insurance Co., which reported paying out $9.5 million in insurance claims statewide, including $1.3 million in Lauderdale County.
Farm Bureau reported that 560 claims were filed in Lauderdale County.
Smaller claims that have been filed in the Meridian area, including those that dealt with mostly lighter damage such as lost shingles and siding, have been completed, insurance officials said.
Meanwhile, others with more serious damage, such as Busbee, are still meeting with contractors.
Michele R. Pearson, Busbee's insurance agent who works for GuideOne Insurance, said she had 30 policy holders in East Central Mississippi file claims related to Ivan or about 5 percent of the homes she insures.
Millions in losses
The problem, Pearson said, is that thousands of GuideOne customers across the Southeast have filed claims because of Hurricanes Ivan, Frances, Jeanne and Charlie all totaling millions of dollars in losses.
Those losses and insurance claims have caused some to fear they could see their annual homeowner premiums increase.
But state Insurance Commissioner George Dale said that's not likely to happen.
Before this year's hurricane season, Dale said, many insurance companies across the country were rebounding from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and many even began to see profits.
Dale said he was expecting a possible decrease in many insurance premiums.
And because all insurance companies are backed by international re-insurers, he said, he's still not sure if homeowners will see a decrease in their premiums or if they'll stay about the same.
Premium costs
The good news, he said, is that insurance premiums aren't likely to go up, he said.
And since the hit to most insurance companies will likely come when they re-negotiate contracts with re-insurers, Dale said, everyone regardless of where they live will see the same effect of the hurricanes.
Pearson agreed. She said she's heard the same message from GuideOne about how the hurricanes will affect future premiums: If homeowner policy rates increase they will be minimal.
While she can't control future premiums, Pearson said, she can help ease the stress for customers who did have to file claims.
Most of the claims that were filed in her office during the days following the storm have been met, with checks being mailed and repairs being completed.
Busbee is one of the last customers to complete the process because of the extent of her damage. Busbee said she's "more than happy" with how helpful Pearson and her staff have been.
State Insurance Commissioner George Dale has compiled statewide insurance claims filed because of Hurricane Ivan from one company, Farm Bureau Insurance Co. Claims and pay-outs from other companies were unavailable.
Farm Bureau has paid $9.5 million in insurance claims filed by Mississippi policy holders since Sept. 16, the day Hurricane Ivan made landfall.
Farm Bureau has paid $1.3 million for damages in Lauderdale County.
More than 560 claims have been filed by Farm Bureau customers in Lauderdale County.
SOURCE: Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale

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