New Texas Windstorm Insurance Association committed to prompt, fair service
Sep 26, 2011
The following article was published in the Houston Chronicle on September 23, 2011:
New TWIA committed to prompt, fair service
By John Polak
It has been three years since Hurricane Ike struck the Texas coast and left Galveston and the surrounding areas changed in often devastating ways. Many people are still dealing with the aftermath; some will never be quite the same.
The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) has changed as well.
Following the storm, nearly 95,000 TWIA policyholders filed claims to cover the costs to repair and rebuild, based on the terms of their policies. The vast majority of these claims were processed and resolved satisfactorily from the perspective of our policyholders. A small percentage of them, however, were not handled to our policyholders’ satisfaction, nor were they handled to our current standards, and numerous lawsuits were filed. In April, I was hired by the TWIA board of directors to serve as interim general manager.
Any time a major storm of that type occurs, it is an extreme challenge to any carrier to respond effectively to the sudden and extensive claim volume. However, since then, significant improvements – including a renewed commitment to and focus on the customer – have been implemented by TWIA to help us do a better job of serving our customers. First and foremost, we’re making it easier to communicate with us. A customer portal has been added to our website (www.twia.org) to enable policyholders to track the payments that TWIA has made on their claim from any computer.
As soon as a major storm begins to develop and well after it is gone, we will launch an extensive public information effort to ensure that our policyholders know how to reach us to file a claim or ask questions, even if they have evacuated and don’t have access to their insurance policy or agent.
Second, we have implemented new policies for hiring and training adjusters and for supervising them when they’re in communities hit by a storm. After Ike, some of our policyholders were understandably angered by the way some adjusters assessed damages to their homes. We have done an extensive investigation of our adjusting practices and have put stringent new standards in place to govern the adjusting firms with which we contract.
Third, we have developed a comprehensive Catastrophe Response Team Plan that will send a response team to every major storm site. This team will be able to issue payments for temporary living expenses immediately following a significant storm so that our policyholders can begin rebuilding their lives as soon as possible.
Fourth, we believe that litigation to resolve a claim dispute should be the method of last resort and we want to reduce the number of lawsuits filed by making sure our policyholders are treated fairly from square one. In cases where there are disputes, we have new processes for handling litigated and mediated claims, which should ultimately help to resolve lawsuits more quickly and save money for all involved.
Last but not least, we have empowered our employees to solve problems as they arise. Management will provide the tools and support necessary to help our staff handle issues quickly, without bureaucratic red tape slowing down the process.
Today’s TWIA is a changed organization and will continue to improve in the months and years ahead. While we will never be perfect, we are committed to promptly and fairly responding to our policyholders when disaster strikes.
At TWIA, we are looking to a future in which our policyholders feel secure in the knowledge that they have the best possible windstorm coverage for their homes and businesses.