Insurance claims

Liz Easton, owner of Cupcakes By Liz, talks about plans to rebuild her Joplin, Mo., business.

Photo by T. Rob Brown/The Joplin, Mo., Globe

Insurance companies are looking at the largest payout in the state’s history as claims continue to roll in following the May 22 tornado.

Claims could eventually reach $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

As of June 30, insurance companies had paid more than $509 million in claims for residential, personal and commercial property damage, according to the Missouri Department of Insurance.

The payout will eclipse the $800 million paid in connection with a hailstorm in 2000 in St. Louis.

“This will be the largest insurance event in Missouri history, and these numbers confirm that the insurance industry is playing a vital role in Joplin’s recovery,” John Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration, said in a statement.

Some tornado victims, such as Liz Easton, were overwhelmed by the response from their insurance companies. Others, like David Gilbreth, were frustrated.

“Insurance has taken very good care of us,” said Easton. She had coverage with Amica for her home and with Columbia for her business, Cupcakes by Liz.

Gilbreth, now living in Neosho, lost his home.

He said his insurance company, Travelers, treated him well on his car and gave him an initial check for his house within days, but he has wrestled with the company over the home’s contents during most of the past two months.

“They started depreciating things, but they wouldn’t appreciate anything, like antiques, that increased in value,” he said.

The numbers reported by the state Insurance Department do not reflect uninsured losses or properties that are underinsured.

Some people often do not update their limits on their homeowners insurance, and some got caught under insured.

“If you bought insurance 15 years ago and never updated your limits, you will find that property values have gone up and building costs have appreciated,” said Travis Ford of the Missouri Department of Insurance.

U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2009 indicate that 77 percent of the dwellings in Jasper County and 80 percent in Newton County are insured.

Details for this story were provided by The Joplin (Mo.) Globe.

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