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Issue: Making insurance companies pay

Posted at 1:38 PM on March 20, 2007 by Bob Collins

I'm out sick today (yes, I actually am), so I'm working on MFL stuff and watching the House/Senate TV.

There's an interesting hearing going on regarding SF1152, which, as described by author Sen. Tarryl Clark, is designed to give consumers a "level playing field" when going up against insurers.

Listening to testimony, apparently insurance companies occasionally settle for less than the amount of their policy in such things as auto accidents and homeowners insurance, knowing that in order to get a bigger payout -- often to pay actual medical expenses -- homeowners and auto owners would have to sue, and all the time and expense that entails. So a lot of folks don't bother suing, take less than they are owed, and the insurance companies walk away with a profit.

I have no reason to doubt the people who are testifying today, but one homeowner testifying that her insurance company denying her claim for hail damage while houses all around were getting new siding and roofs, got me thinking about this on another level.

This has got to be one of the biggest scams going on today. See, in Woodbury, and a lot of other places, the siding and roofing contractors fan out across the neighborhoods throughout the summer, telling homeowners that they've got hail siding and roofing damage and they can get their insurance companies to pay for new roofs and siding.

I would guess just about every neighbor of mine has new siding (apparently, they only have a beige) and a new roof. I'd like one too, since my house is getting older.

I know Woodbury weather pretty well, and I know that it's hailed maybe 6 times in the last 3 years -- real small pellets (more like sleet) for about 10 seconds. There are a few exceptions (hail is like that), but you'd never guess it by the way the roofing and siding people are cleaning up. And I suspect a few of my neighbors know they were taking the insurance companies for a ride.

I usually chase 'em away with a broom but last fall I let one actually talk to me and he started pointing out all the damage on the siding. I let him have his say, and then I said, "those marks are where my kids threw tennis balls against the siding." I kicked 'em out and as he was walking -- or running -- away, he said over your shoulder, "are you sure? It's free!"

Well, of course, it's not free. And I'm wondering if the people with real claims and real damage who are testifying today are the ones who ended up paying?

Update 2:42p - The measure died in committee.