Deadline Nears for Joplin Homeowners' Claims

The Missouri Department of Insurance is warning residents whose insurance claims are incomplete that many policies contain a 12-month deadline for consumers to receive full compensation.

Time is running out for residents of Joplin, Mo., whose property was damaged by the May 22, 2011, EF-5 tornado to complete their insurance claims, the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration reported May 11. Many homeowners' insurance policies contain 12-month deadlines for consumers to receive full compensation for their damaged property, which means paperwork submitted after the deadline may result in a lower claim payment.

Insurance Director John M. Huff said some policies have six-month deadlines, but the department told insurers in November 2011 to extend the deadlines to at least a year. "In many cases, consumers are paid the full value for destroyed property after they pay to repair or replace it and turn in receipts to their insurance company," said Huff. "After all they've been through, we want Joplin residents to receive full reimbursement for their expenses related to tornado recovery."

He urged homeowners to check with their insurance agent or company or check their policy to find out which deadlines they face. The insurance term often used for full reimbursement is "replacement value"; after the deadline, consumers may receive "actual cash value," which subtracts depreciation from the value of destroyed property.

Insurance companies so far have paid more than $1.4 billion in homeowners, auto, and commercial property claims from the Joplin tornado, and Huff said he expects the total to approach $2 billion when all claims are settled. Policyholders have filed more than 19,000 insurance claims.

For more information, call the department’s consumer hotline at 800-726-7390 or visit www.insurance.mo.gov. The tornado caused extensive damage and killed 160 people in Joplin. It may yet be ranked as the costliest storm in the state's history when claims are finally settled.

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