- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

Home-insurance companies have been inundated with claims this week after the Washington area was hit by days of storms and record rainfall.

As of yesterday morning, State Farm Insurance policyholders in Maryland had filed 1,520 homeowners claims, compared with 400 claims in the District and 1,030 in Virginia, according to Maria Jackson, State Farm spokeswoman.

There were 187 automobile claims in the District and Maryland, Mrs. Jackson said, but no statistics were available for Virginia.

The volume of claims to Travelers, which sells commercial, auto and homeowners insurance, has tripled in Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia, spokeswoman Jennifer Wislocki said. She would not provide specific figures because of company policy.

As of 2 p.m. yesterday, Allstate Insurance Co. reported 1,914 claims from the District, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware, according to spokeswoman Shaundra Turner. Of those, a little more than 1,600 were property claims and the remaining were auto claims.

Travelers brought out its catastrophe-response team of more than 100 claims adjusters this week to handle the work, Ms. Wislocki said.

“Of the claims we’ve received from Friday through the weekend, by Tuesday we had made contact with all of those customers,” Ms. Wislocki said.

But many homeowners, regardless of their policies, have waited for companies to repair and mitigate damage because of high demand for the services, said State Farm Insurance agent George Vassilas. He said companies are “simply overwhelmed.”

A typical homeowners’ policy, regardless of the company, covers water damage from rain but not from rising or surface water, which is only covered by federal flood insurance, Ms. Wislocki said.

The most common types of damage reported to State Farm have been water coming through the roof and sump-pump failure, Mr. Vassilas said.

Both Travelers and State Farm sell a policy add-on that covers overflowing sump pumps as well as backed-up sewers and drains. Travelers’ add-on includes pipe leaks, Ms. Wislocki said, which most homeowners buy. Even if the leaks occur in the basement, they are covered.

Mr. Vassilas said pipe leaks are covered as part of the regular State Farm policy.

Flood insurance is available from many insurance providers through the National Flood Insurance Program, Mr. Vassilas said. It can cost anywhere from $150 for condominiums up to $900 per year. Both Travelers and State Farm participate in this program, which covers damage from surface water.

Mr. Vassilas said the number of claims has begun to pick up from earlier in the week as people who have been away from home have returned to find damage.

Though claim volume is high, it is not at the level experienced when Hurricane Isabel hit the area in September 2003, Mrs. Jackson said.

In the District, Maryland and Delaware, Mrs. Jackson said State Farm received a total of 16,000 homeowners claims as a result of the hurricane, and homeowners in Virginia and North Carolina filed a total of 76,000 claims.

She said she did not know over what period of time the claims were received.

Travelers experienced a net loss of $75 million as a result of Hurricane Isabel, Ms. Wislocki said, but it is too early to assess the cost of the recent storms.

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