Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon directed insurers last week to pay policyholders’ expenses for evacuating from Hurricane Ida as damaged infrastructure and dangerous living conditions in Southeast Louisiana continue to keep people from returning home.
Directive 218, issued Tuesday, requires insurers to pay claims for loss of use for policyholders who evacuated or were prohibited from using their premises because of the storm. The order follows Bulletin 2021-07, which was issued Sept. 4 and requested insurers to voluntarily pay claims for prohibited use even if parishes didn’t issue a formal mandatory evacuation order.
Donelon strengthened the Louisiana Department of Insurance’s regulatory action over the loss of use issue after State Farm, the state’s largest insurer of homes, said it would not pay loss of use claims where no express civil authority order was in place.
“Hurricane Ida was a clear and present danger to the citizens of Louisiana,” Donelon said. “Officials throughout the region took to the airwaves to get out the message that people needed to leave or stay in a safe place. Insurers must treat the many diverse actions taken by public officials as an order to leave and pay people who have coverage for their expenses.”
The directive for insurers to provide coverage applies to policies in the 25 parishes listed in Emergency Rule 47, a measure issued by Commissioner Donelon to protect policyholders from cancellations and non-renewals after Hurricane Ida.
Last week, President Biden urged insurance companies to pay people’s evacuation expenses as he visited the devastated area in St. John the Baptist Parish. Commissioner Donelon joined President Biden in that request as he heard from constituents that many companies were denying claims for loss of use.
Most homeowners policies include coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) under the prohibited use coverage that generally pays extra expenses for up to two weeks when an evacuation order prohibits policyholders from living in their homes. When homeowners have physical damage to their properties that is covered by insurance, additional living expense coverage will pay for longer term additional expenses if a home is uninhabitable during the repair.
Anyone who is facing expenses from Hurricane Ida that are not covered by insurance should apply for Individual Assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. National Flood Insurance Program policies do not cover additional living expenses.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance encourages everyone to keep receipts for any extra expenses they face after a disaster. Additional living expense coverage pays the expenses beyond a policyholder’s normal expenses for housing and food, such as the cost of a hotel room or apartment rental and reasonable restaurant meals when someone is unable to cook.