A new client informed me last week that his wife was going to protest against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) in Austin, Texas. From what I hear, she is going to have quite a few neighbors with her as they commemorate the sixth month anniversary of Hurricane Ike by creating a storm of controversy as they march to TWIA headquarters. Power to the People!
One of the leaders, Brenda Cannon Henley, recently spoke with me at length regarding her perceptions and anger over the situation TWIA has caused businesses and residents. She is an investigative journalist by training and has experience with the media. My prediction is that her considerable organizational talents and the determination of those from Bolivar are going to land much of this story in the media. Brenda also has a fabulous Blog, where she shares her perceptions of being a coastal Texan. She recently wrote about her experiences with Hurricane Ike and her community’s frustration with TWIA:
"I can also still see great piles of debris, parts of fallen in houses, abandoned vehicles, lawn mowers, boats (did I mention boats?), pieces of trailers to move those boats, blown sand piles, heavy equipment, tools of various degrees and flying American and Texan flags. Bolivar, for all of the hard work by so many, still resembles a war zone where much combat took place. It is discouraging at times and heartening at other times. Clean up is dirty work and our beloved Peninsula will remain in this stage for a long time to come. The cleared areas, for whatever reason that they have been worked, are encouraging and new growth is appearing here and there.
Many of our people cannot come home because many of them have no home left to come to. Most are in a battle for their life against the huge Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and we’ve found that this sad group is not playing by the rules. More than 100 (at this point) of our friends, neighbors and family members are protesting their action (or lack of) in Austin in front of TWIA’s offices on Friday, March 13, the exact anniversary of the day our lives changed so drastically. Many have come home — sort of, anyway — to RVs, fifth wheels, and partially repaired properties. We laughingly call ourselves "slabbers" the name TWIA dubbed us early on after the storm. Many others we know simply cannot face coming here to the Peninsula where they believe their dreams of a lifetime died violently six months ago. One of our neighbors has never been back and her husband says she cannot come back. She has developed a raging fear of the water, a fear of diseases she surmises are here, and a fear of losing her life, as at least four of our immediate neighbors did.
For me, personally, once I see the Gulf, with her lazy waves rolling in, or even on a windy day, when the waves beat their way to the shoreline, hear the cry of the gulls, watch the ships come and go, and see little children playing in the sand, I remember vividly why I nailed my mast to the staff here in this place and why I will fight to the bitter end to have my life continue where I choose to live. Bolivar Peninsula is for me the very closest place I’ve found to the heart of God and what I most imagine Heaven to be like. Until I change locations, love me, but don’t worry about me. I am a survivor. I have good friends and a husband who are also survivors. We will be back strong, vibrant, happy, peaceful and content, and, hey, you can come see us on vacation or any time you get an off day from your work. We’d love to have you — as long as you behave yourselves, don’t dirty up our beaches, treat the land and water respectively, and join us in our effort to get fair treatment at the hand of our insurance companies. We need your support and involvement as this battle continues."
As I read this, I felt a sense of déjà vu. It was like the Mississippi Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. SLABBED welcomes Texas Windstorm Association and Ike victims to “the scheme” predicted this last year.
Brenda Cannon Henley reminds me of my former Diamondhead, Mississippi client, Judy Dutruch and her organization, "The Slingshot Gang." Slabbed reported on Judy’s case in Insurance News You Can Use.
One of TWIA’s preposterous findings in nearly every case is that "slabbers" have exactly the same amount of damage to the estimated replacement cost of the structure–11.2%. Ms. Henley told me she has seen 53 adjusters’ estimates to total loss structures and each of them show only 11.2% damage. All our clients have only 11.2% estimated damage as well. Last week, I posted a sad joke about this, The Parable of Hurricane Ike Insurance Claims.
An adjuster comment was posted to Views From Hurricane Ike TWIA Insurance Adjusters which helps voices additional causes for the anger and need to protest TWIA’s disgraceful claims handling:
"You cannot imagine the hurdles TWIA put property adjusters through on "Ike" claims. I really felt sorry for the Texans that had to suffer three times for one storm. (the actual hurricane), (the TWIA claims process), (contractors repairs)
I hope that Texas can get its act together when it comes to state windpool. When an adjuster calls the carrier regarding a claim, you would think the carrier would understand that it must be an important call for the adjuster to stop what he is doing and contact them. Phones turned off at 3PM, no return phone calls, no communication on payments to insured, and the best excuse is "We have 50 file reveiwers and it will take some time to get to each file." This is a clear misunderstanding of logistics for a storm that created more than 75,000 claims. They should have tried for 500 file reviewers and provide the service the policy holder paid for."
Honest and fair claims handling requires adjusters to fully and honestly explain how an estimate is calculated. None of these TWIA customers have been given this information. I do not expect the full, honest reason will be revealed until TWIA management is put under oath to explain the adjustments. Until then, maybe the protest will spur some action from the Texas Department of Insurance. Hopefully, those good regulators will start investigating the absurd claims behavior, and encouraging TWIA to follow the rules required of all insurers.