August 22, 2014

Elyria
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Storm-struck neighborhood deals with hail of insurance rejections

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — State Farm Insurance has paid out about $5 billion nationwide through the first three quarters of 2011 to repair, rebuild and replace homes, vehicles and other property damaged by the year’s savage weather.

But about 80 homeowners insured by State Farm who reside in the city’s Ridgefield Development off Bagley Road who claim their roofs were damaged by hail apparently have been left holding the bag.

“Another fellow and myself canvassed much of the subdivision, and we probably have about 80 people who were denied,” Kevin Calahan said this week.

More than 50 people showed up for a meeting of the Ridgefield Homeowners Association earlier in the week to discuss their legal options.

“We were just trying to figure out what can be done next,” Calahan said. No decisions were reached.

The State Farm policyholders are at a loss to explain how their claims are not being honored, while neighbors, some living next door or across the street, have had claims for hail damage settled promptly, according to Calahan, himself a customer of State Farm, the nation’s largest insurer, with about 81 million policyholders.

A number of roofing companies told some of the State Farm policyholders they had hail damage, but State Farm adjusters said no, some without climbing onto roofs for closer inspections.

“How can you tell without even going up there?” Calahan said.

One adjuster told Calahan he inspected another house down the street to make his evaluation on Calahan’s Riverwood Drive home. An adjuster eventually did go onto his roof for a closer look, according to Calahan.

“I’ve never filed a claim on my home,” Calahan said.

Persistence paid off for Calahan, who was just approved for repairs last weekend. The approval followed a complaint he submitted to the Ohio Department of Insurance over handling of his claim by State Farm. “Within a couple of days I had a call from State Farm and by the weekend, someone was out to look at the roof.”

But most others are still waiting. Some who attended the homeowners’ association meeting spoke of adjusters sent by State Farm who tried to talk them out of filing hail damage claims, saying they could be dropped for doing so.

“Why do you pay for insurance for 40 years and when you need it, you’re told you might get dropped … for an act of nature?” Calahan said.

Citing privacy regulations, Blake Zitko, a public affairs specialist for State Farm in Newark, Ohio, said the insurer could not comment on cases involving individual policyholders.

“Regardless of how busy a claims season is, and this has been an especially busy season with all the hail and wind damage across the country, we handle each claim on its own merits,” Zitko said. “We work to pay policyholders what they are owed under terms of individual policies, whether folks are in the same subdivision or not.”

Calahan said he was told that a State Farm adjuster claimed the company was very aware of the development’s active homeowners’ association.”

Some who didn’t give up eventually wound up being approved for roof repairs or new roofs.

“Some hired their own engineer who agreed there was hail damage,” Calahan said. “If people can get together to form a lot of voices, it becomes a little more difficult to ignore.”

Any policyholder unhappy with the outcome of a claims decision made by their insurance company should contact the firms’ customer service department for a re-evaluation, Zitko said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.