Flood claim reviews set to begin today for Isabel victims

Federal insurance officials to talk with policyholders in Baltimore County

April 08, 2004|By Andrew Green | Andrew Green,SUN STAFF

Promising to correct any errors that have shortchanged Tropical Storm Isabel victims by thousands of dollars, federal flood insurance officials will meet one-on-one with policyholders today in Bowleys Quarters to begin reviewing claims.

Bill Lokey, the National Flood Insurance Program official who will be coordinating the government's efforts to re-evaluate the 24,000 Isabel claims, said something clearly went wrong with the program's response to the storm, leading to mistakes in many settlement offers.

The federal agency is committed to making sure all flood victims get what they deserve under their policies, Lokey said.

"It's just a matter of doing the right thing," he said.

The review of claims will differ from the initial adjustments victims received after the storm, Lokey said, because program officials will closely oversee the process and make sure the policies are interpreted properly.

In initial reviews of disputed claims, Lokey said he has seen instances in which adjusters denied coverage for things that clearly should have been covered.

Another difference in the process, he said, is that federal officials will review contractors' repair estimates, which most policyholders did not have when their claims were initially adjusted. One of the most widespread complaints of Isabel victims is that settlement offers have been far short of the cost to rebuild, often by tens of thousands of dollars.

The meetings will take place at the Bowleys Quarters Improvement Association, 1124 Bowleys Quarters Road, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. No appointment is necessary.

Lokey said victims should bring their policy numbers and their contractors' estimates. In some cases, flood insurance officials will arrange to visit damaged properties.

No decisions will be made at today's meetings, Lokey said.

Additional meetings will be held in other parts of Maryland, as well as in Virginia and North Carolina, but dates and times have not been set, Lokey said.

The federal flood insurance program will also send letters to all Isabel victims informing them of their right to have their claims re-evaluated.

Those who can't attend the meetings can start a review over the telephone by calling 800-427-4661 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. seven days a week.

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