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Published: Thursday, 6/10/2010

Insurance disaster centers set up to speed cleanup, recovery

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

In the insurance industry, tornadoes like the ones that devastated communities across northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan last weekend are known as "acts of God."

And the insurance adjusters in the region this week, handing out checks and underwriting the cleanup, might consider themselves God's cleanup crew.

A number of insurance companies have set up disaster centers locally to process claims coming from the storms that killed five people and caused an estimated $100 million in damages in Wood County alone. Others took a more retail approach.

"I grabbed my checkbook and folder and headed into Millbury at 8:30 or 9 a.m. Sunday and just started walking from lot to lot," said Pete MacDonald, an agent in Oregon with State Farm Insurance who has numerous clients in Lake Township.

"Whatever they need, we're going to be there for them," he said.

Coverage for damage from the wind - either straight-line or spinning - is a standard piece of the vast majority of homeowners' insurance policies.

Tornadoes are a relatively common calamity - there are about 800 in the United States each year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - so insurance adjusters are adept at helping their clients reassemble their lives in the wake of a strike like the ones in Fulton, Wood, and Monroe counties.

Adjusters can get customers immediate living expenses and help them find temporary housing, said Kim Ward, an associate vice president with Nationwide Insurance, who is in Millbury to help.

Processing an insurance claim isn't immediate. Depending on the severity of the damages, it can take a month or more for insurance companies and their clients to reach settlement agreements to cover damages.

Insurance regulators in both Ohio and Michigan have issued tips for those recovering from the storms, including:

•Call your insurance company as soon as you can.

•Take reasonable steps to prevent more damage.

•Closely inspect property and cars for damage. Note and photograph damage.

•If you have a home inventory, provide it to your claims adjuster.

•If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for "loss of use" coverage.

•Be sure everything is considered in your claim. Back up claims with written estimates.

Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudston announced yesterday that she has issued guidance to insurance companies instructing them to allow clients directly impacted by the storm an additional 60 days to pay their premiums. The interest-free 60-day grace period applies only to those who experienced a loss and expires on Sept. 10.

For those who didn't have insurance, the U.S. Small Business Administration has a program that may provide low-interest disaster relief loans to business owners and homeowners in disaster areas.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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