published Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

State of Tennessee offers aid on storm insurance

Roofing contractors David Dilbeck, James Winters, Josh Knight and Shawn Gosselin, from left, put a new roof on a home along Brownwood Street in Bradley County after the tornadoes. 
Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Roofing contractors David Dilbeck, James Winters, Josh Knight and Shawn Gosselin, from left, put a new roof on a home along Brownwood Street in Bradley County after the tornadoes. Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press
INSURANCE CLAIM HELP

Having trouble dealing with your insurance company? Visit the State Department of Commerce and Insurance’s temporary office at 455 N. Highland Park Ave. this week between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or call 423-209-6400.

After losing homes and loved ones, the last thing Hamilton County residents want is insurance hassles, so one state agency is doing what it can to keep problems to a minimum.

The Department of Commerce and Insurance temporarily moved its Consumer Insurance Services section to Chattanooga to talk face to face with locals having difficulty with insurance claims.

“Just about always, people in these situations are dealt the worst days of their lives,” department spokesman Christopher Garrett said. “When you can go and be a presence and help them understand, that alone can help them deal with the stress and anxiety of where they are.”

Sometimes storm victims with claims don’t understand their policies, have trouble getting insurance companies to pay out or need help just staying in touch with their company after moving from their destroyed home. That’s where Consumer Insurance Services comes in.

“It’s mediation, so it’s talking to the consumer, talking to the company,” Garrett said.

So far, the department has dealt with dozens of claimants from the Chattanooga area. Garrett said that number is relatively low, indicating insurance companies have been helpful in the wake of April’s tornadoes.

Still, he encouraged anyone with problems to head to the office at 455 N. Highland Park Ave. this week.

“On top of everything, they’re confused by the policy they’re probably just reading for the first time,” he said. “There are people who work in the state who are trying to help.”

Garrett can relate to the potential frustrations filing disaster insurance claims can bring.

About 10 years ago, he was in his apartment when a tornado tore through the area, ripping off neighbors’ roofs and damaging his home while he was inside. After that experience, he said he can empathize with what Hamilton County residents are going through.

And that holds true for the two or three people staffing the office.

“That’s how they are, too,” he said. “They’re used to dealing with people in the most stressful parts of their lives.”

Contact Carey O’Neil at coneil@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525.

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