Saturday, July 29, 2006

Parallel Lives Without Parallel Lines


My Racked House
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Michael Homan and I are living parallel lives.

We both teach at universities. We both have a son and a daughter. (Our daughters are only a year apart in age.) We both have two-story Victorian houses, both about 100 years old, both pink with white trim, with porch swings and second-floor balconies lined with wrought iron railings, with old knob and tube wiring in some parts of the house, and children's heights are marked on the door jams. We both love and appreciate our old houses and have spent time and money lovingly renovating them.

Then, on August 29, 2005, our houses were assaulted by the hurricane whose name no one seems to want to utter anymore. Myself included. When the levees broke, both our neighborhoods flooded. The water in my neighborhood only rose high enough to soak the insulation beneath my floors, but this was enough to also cause shorts in some of the wiring and destroy things like the hot water heater and air conditioning units that sat at ground level. Unfortunately, the water in Michael's neighborhood rose high enough to flood the first floor of his house with what looks to be about a foot of water.

Some people think that New Orleans was relatively unscathed after The Storm and that it was the flooding and not the winds that caused us trouble. While there's no question that the flood is responsible for most of the destruction, the hurricane-force winds did not leave us unscathed. Just ask me. Or Michael Homan. In both our cases, water didn't just come up from below; it also came in from above --in my case, soaking almost every wall and ceiling in my house, even the ceilings on the first floor, where water leaking in from the damaged roof and walls ran down the studs and along the second floor's joists and down into the ceiling. And because of the assault of hurricane force winds, our houses are now racked -- twisted and leaning, in both our cases, to the left. We both have damaged foundations that are cracked and separated and exposed brick chimneys with fissures running through them. I've been told that my beautiful chimney can't be saved. I hope that's not true. Neither of us can begin to restore our homes until our foundations are repaired and our racked houses are straightened. And therein lies the problem.

Michael Homan and I are insured by the two largest insurance carriers in Louisiana. I have State Farm and he has despicable AllState. State Farm has been okay up until we came to address this issue. Now Michael and I are having the same adventure. I'm just a few steps behind him.

Let me go back a bit, to where I left off in March, when I had an report from a civil engineer explaining how the hurricane-force winds had racked my house. I immediately took this report to State Farm. After a month of no response from them and no returned phone calls, I asked someone in my agent's office to intervene. They had an engineer from Quick and Associates come out the next day. I got chummy with him as he scoped the house and I tried to casually get him to share his opinion. He informed me that he wasn't allowed to discuss his findings with the homeowner, but eventually he revealed that he didn't disagree with anything on my engineer's report other than the need to replace the entire roof. Ironically, State Farm had never sent a roofing inspector to my house and when they finally did, he changed the settlement from a roof repair to a roof replacement, just as my engineer advised. State Farm's engineer also gave me lots of advice on things that the company should be paying for (but they're not) and how to ask for them. Before he left that day, I asked him how long it would take to get the report to State Farm. He said about a month, but if nagged (I nag State Farm, they nag him), he could have it in as little as two weeks.

All this took place in March. And I did inquire after a month went by with no word from anyone. Adjuster #5 said she'd fuss until she got it. About six weeks after the engineer's visit, she called to say she had the report, but it was missing the data. What data? The storm data, indicating wind speed and direction, etc. I reasoned that this firm must have done hundreds of such reports by then, and since there was only one storm and one set of data for it, it shouldn't take long to get the completed report. Adjustor #5 said she would stay on the case and that they should definitely have the report *soon.* That was in April.

Now, here we are, at the end of July, more than four months since the engineer's visit, and there is still "no data." I am on adjuster #6, who asked me last week if anyone had told me about the preliminary report. Nope. Not a word. So he told me that it said that the huge cracks in my plaster and sheetrock walls were not caused by the hurricane's winds. He says they were there before the storm. Was he kidding? First of all, the issue of cracked walls was nothing compared to the foundation issues and the racked house, especially given the fact that the walls were seriously damaged by water anyway. And #6 had nothing to say about anything but wall cracks in the preliminary report. There had to be more than that in it. But he didn't offer anything beyond that, other than to say that the data, the justification for the engineer's findings, was still missing.

Am I really expected to believe this?? I am expected to believe that after all this time, they can't pull together the necessary data to complete my report, the very same data they've no doubt used for countless other reports? Or that after all this time, cracks in walls is the only issue the engineer addressed? Please! Perhaps they haven't quite figured out how to dispute the wind damage claim. Perhaps State Farm sent the report back for further *editing* until it says what they want. Perhaps they're just stalling, hoping I'll let the deadlines slip by and they can just walk away. Perhaps they're just hoping to wear me out.

So, I haven't gotten the full brunt of it yet, but State Farm is starting to play the Liar Game with me, too, by claiming that major damage caused by The Storm was present before it struck. I've told them I can prove otherwise, but they don't seem to be interested in that fact. Now State Farm has joined AllState in calling both me and Michael Homen liars. But if you really want to know who the lying schmucks are, just read Michael's post that I linked to at the beginning of this paragraph. Read it and pay attention to the contents of AllState's engineer's report. And read this. Go to Michael's blog and read all the stuff he's written about this ordeal. Our stories and our sentiments about it are almost identical.

It's 11 months today since The Storm. We cannot begin the work on our houses until this is resolved.

How many others are going through this? It's time to fight.

5 Comments:

Anonymous adrastos said...

One thing about *your* State Farm claim that sounds familiar is the way they shuffle you from adjustor to adjustor. Even for our comparatively minimal wind damage we went through 4 adjustors before someone came out.

Also, the agent system works fine for ordinary claims but it just provides the company with a different layer of deniabilty post-K. We have the same agent and he and his peeps are decent folks but all they can do is talk to the company. And on and on and on.

It's a Billy Preston system: Nothing from nothing and will it go round in circles. SF, however, would say "that's the way god planned it."

I may have to use that on my blog...

10:26 AM  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

This awful. It's the same game all big, rich companies play - delay, delay, delay and maybe you'll go away or just die. A big asbestos company has been doing it here for years.

Sure you need to gang together, but class actions tend to take years and make lawyers even richer. The media fast tracks things. Tacky stuff like sick kids, celebrities, a poster boy or girl of some kind.

Keep writing about it, keep shouting...some of us are listening. With this amount of brain power, we have to come up with something. I still reckon you need a blog benefit of some kind. A world first. Something to make the international media stop and listen.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Addict said...

It's time for N.O. homeowners to bind together and get a big class action law suit going against their insurance companies...
It's so unjust, unethical and against everything homeowners trust when they pay their insurance premiums....

2:37 AM  
Blogger Dominique said...

I'm pulling my hair out for you while reading this. I feel like such a baby because I freak out when I have to call Sprint about a cancellation fee although I haven't had a contract with them for years.

Hang in there. The word needs to get out - I can only imagine there is strength in numbers.

9:34 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Adrastos, I think going 'round in circles is definitely appropos. My agent's office staff has been okay, but when I spoke to him asking for his intervention to see if he could get something to happen, he got all defensive and told me how lucky I was to have State Farm and how the vast majority of their claims had ben settled. I told him that I knew all that and completely agreed, Then he seemed to go on the offensive by telling me things like how much money they'd already paid me, etc., and I had to remind him that I couldn't use that money for repairs until the issue was settled. He gave me the brush-off and some bullshit story about how agents were no longer allowed to call on behalf od their clients/ So, I'm giving my homeowners policy to the guy who's had my auto policy since I was 15.

A.O.F., Addict and Dominique- thanks ladies for your continued show of support. Believe me, this fight is far from over and we're not backing down.

9:37 AM  

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