Editor's Note: This story has been updated since it originally was published in 2006.
The people who lost homes and businesses to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 put their insurers to the test. Their experiences can teach you a thing or two about dealing with your insurer when -- and even before -- disaster strikes.Six Steps to Protect Your Home
Whether you're facing this year's hurricane season or any disaster that threatens your home, follow the trail of these Katrina veterans to learn how they got their claims paid quickly, or fought back when claims were denied.
Be first in line
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, finding an insurance representative took some doing. The Bay St. Louis home of third-generation insurance broker David Treutel was under 12 feet of water, and his office was destroyed. So on his old office building he spray-painted directions to the tent he'd pitched across town. A few weeks later, the tent was blown away by Hurricane Rita. Treutel's staff then moved into a trailer, and on some days as many as 100 clients would wander into his makeshift office.
One smart thing Treutel did right off the bat was file blanket claims for all of his customers, which put them at the head of the line when the time came for them to deal with adjusters. A Safeco adjuster from Ozark, Mo., arrived two weeks after the storm and worked out of Treutel's office.
As it turned out, filing claims was the easy part. With nearly 900,000 Katrina and Rita claims in Louisiana, "there weren't enough adjusters in the world" to handle the volume, says Don Beery, an independent agent with Eustis Insurance, located near the Superdome. Coordinating meetings was a challenge because street signs -- and often entire roads -- had disappeared.
Responding to 125,000 phone calls from consumers who wanted help reaching their insurers, the Louisiana Department of Insurance provided contact information. State Farm let displaced customers file a claim with any of its agents around the U.S.
Ed de Montluzin, whose homes in New Orleans and Pass Christian, Miss., were both damaged by the storm, advises staying in touch by e-mail. "You have to keep on top of it and follow through with everybody," says de Montluzin. "People responded immediately to e-mail, and you had a record."
It also helped to have "a lot of patience" and to make a special effort to meet face to face with an adjuster, says de Montluzin. He traveled from Columbus, Ga., for an appointment with an adjuster from Chubb insurance company, so that they would both be there to see the six or seven trees that had toppled onto de Montluzin's house in Pass Christian.