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Shapiro & Appleton

Hurrican Katrina: Seventeen Months and Counting

In his recent State of the Union address, President Bush had much to say about how well the economy was performing. He offered congratulations to the new Democratic majority in the House and Senate. He mentioned a few of the successes that our intelligence community has achieved in the War on Terror, and he also did his best to make clear his reasons for sending additional troops to Iraq.

It was appropriate for President Bush to discuss these issues in his speech. They are certainly topics that are weighing heavily on the minds of most Americans, and hearing a point of view directly from him as opposed to the constant chatter of the numerous pundits, AM radio hosts and talking heads could help many of us make up our minds one way or the other.

It was a good speech. But we found it interesting that not one word was mentioned about the still intolerable state of affairs in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast.

It was only seventeen months ago that Hurricane Katrina effectively ended the existence of one our most treasured cities, killed over 1,000 people and ruined the lives of thousands of others. It was only a few days later when the President said that it was impossible to imagine America without New Orleans. One doesn’t have to imagine such an existence anymore. All that is necessary is a short tour of the place to see that we are indeed living in an America without New Orleans.

To this day, entire sections of the city are still in ruins, with buildings that were once homes reduced to nothing more than frames that are riddled with mold and rot. While it isn’t necessarily the job of the Federal government to simply pay for the damage, surely they have some influence when it comes to the behavior of those that purported to provide financial coverage in the event that a disaster happens.

The insurance companies that offered coverage to thousands of New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents engaged in disgraceful behavior in the aftermath of Katrina. By exploiting uncertainty in the direct cause of the destruction of the homes of their policyholders, State Farm and other major insurance companies issued blanket denials for claims in every area that was hit by the storm. Most of the policyholders did not even have adjusters or inspectors come to see the wreckage and make an honest assessment. They simply received a form letter denying their claims. Many insurers refused to even make generic policies available online so customers could see for themselves exactly why it was that their claims were being denied.

Big insurance sold an entire section of the country an umbrella, and quite literally took it back as soon as it started to rain. The denials were so blatantly obvious that State Farm couldn’t even see fit to cut one of the biggest tort reform champions in the United States Senate a break.

It is certainly good news that recent verdicts have come out in favor of Gulf Coast policy holders that have found themselves utterly destitute. But we predict that this verdict will only be one step in a long march towards decent treatment for the victims. State Farm will no doubt appeal the decision; there is far too much of a share of their record profits at stake for them not to. While it is certainly the right of insurance companies to appeal legal verdicts (just as it is the right of any American,) we can’t help but think of the thousands of people in the Gulf Coast that still have nowhere to live, or are still paying mortgage payments on a home that either doesn’t exist anymore or is uninhabitable, and are doing so even though they took financial precautions against such a thing happening.

There are obviously many events outside of our borders that demand our attention. There are conflicts in the Middle East, increasingly hostile regimes in South America, a trade deficit with China, and any number of human events in the world that clamor for our attention. But what does it say about the values of our nation when the profits of the few take precedence over the desperate conditions of the many?

It would have spoken volumes about President Bush’s priorities as the leader of our nation if he had he thought to give the pathetic state of affairs in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast even a cursory mention. By saying nothing, he spoke loud and clear.

At Hajek, Shapiro & Appleton we are listening even if it seems that nobody else can be bothered. We have dedicated our practice to defending the rights of those that have had their trust and good faith violated by big insurance. We would very much like to say that we are shocked by the behavior of these insurance companies, but we have been practicing law for far too long to be surprised by much.

If you or a loved one has encountered difficulties in your dealings with insurance companies, do not hesitate to contact us. We successfully defend the rights of victims of Auto Accidents, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Railroad Accidents and Medical Malpractice, and are more than capable of making sure that your voices will be heard.

If you have been injured in an accident, and you feel that your needs are not being met or taken seriously by an insurance company, contact our offices for a free legal consultation today.

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