Adjusters: Insurance claims will take time

Posted April 22, 2011 5:06 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2011 7:07 p.m. EDT

— Insurance companies have dispatched disaster-response teams to North Carolina to begin handling damage claims from last weekend's tornadoes, but adjusters said Friday that the process will take time.

"Initially, we were getting claims reported nonstop," State Farm Insurance agent Angela Shaw-Cain said.

Twenty-eight tornadoes raked 33 counties in central and eastern North Carolina, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. A final tally hasn't been completed, but state officials said Wednesday that preliminary estimates showed 21 businesses and 439 homes were destroyed and 92 businesses and 6,189 houses sustained significant damage.

"This is probably the most severe catastrophe damage I've seen since I've been in the Raleigh area," said Richard Long, an adjuster for State Farm who has worked in the Triangle for 20 years.

Long was on Serendipity Drive in northeast Raleigh on Friday, checking out homes in one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods to begin processing claims.

"This home, it will probably take four to six weeks just to do a full assessment of the damage," he said of Amy Evans' house.

"With something this catastrophic, it's going to be a long process," Evans said.

Shaw-Cain said that, long before insurance companies cut checks to rebuild, they work to get cash into the hands of those who lost the most.

"We want to go on and get them taken care of as far as getting temporary housing, getting them food and clothing if they need that," she said.

The Evans family has received some of those initial funds.

"They've been very responsive in helping us understand and provide resources," Evans said.

Adjusters are focusing on the heaviest damage first and will get around to homes with less damage in the coming week.

Insurance agents urged homeowners, while they are waiting for claims to be processed, to remove trees and other debris from their property so that it doesn't become an additional safety hazard and to check up on contractors to ensure they are licensed and insured.