Miss. insurance commissioner settling Nationwide claims

John O'Brien Jun. 28, 2007, 12:23pm

JACKSON, Miss. - Hundreds more Hurricane Katrina-related claims have been settled thanks to an agreement between Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

Nationwide agreed to re-evaluate slab claims (structures that were nearly or totally destroyed) and pay out more than $25 million to 532 policyholders.

State Farm has also reached an agreement with Dale, which has become the alternative for using the courts system to appease policyholders. Attorney General Jim Hood sued five insurance companies just weeks after Katrina hit in 2005, claiming the companies were misrepresenting the amount of water damage (covered by the National Flood Insurance Program) done to structures.

"This is proof positive that the re-evaluation process works, contrary to allegations voiced by headline-seeking critics of the process," Dale said. "This company voluntarily went back and reviewed every slab claim they had, re-read every report filed, with new adjusters and as a result many of their policyholders received additional claims payments, even if their claim had already been closed.

"I am extremely pleased that more and more coastal policyholders are finding closure and have had money placed directly into their hands so they may begin the long process of healing and rebuilding."

Nationally known plaintiffs attorney Richard Scruggs has criticized the agreement between State Farm and Dale, depicting Dale as a pig wearing lipstick in a political cartoon. Scruggs, who made $26 million when 640 cases were settled as the result of an agreement between Hood and State Farm, also reached an agreement with Nationwide.

Scruggs may soon be facing criminal contempt charges for his conduct regarding confidential documents.

Nationwide had more than 11,000 claims filed along the Mississippi coast and has paid more than $300 million in claims. There were 641 slab claims originally, and now, with the agreement, only 109 remain. Dale says negotiations are still being conducted.

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