Letter: Insurance Woes

Letter to the Editor

A catastrophe of monumental proportion is overtaking our community—and I am not talking about the Woolsey Fire or the mudslides that are now beginning. I am talking about the community-wide trauma affecting every member of this community, leaving many people in shock and/or mentally paralyzed, and unable to deal effectively with insurance companies, public adjusters and contractors who are calmly and intelligently taking advantage of our friends, neighbors and community members when they are at their lowest.

By way of example, one woman I have met was pressured into accepting a quick and inadequate “settlement” from an insurer at a time when this person was in shock from the loss of her home and barely able to manage getting through the day with her elderly mother, who suffers from dementia. Another woman I met has lost her home and all of her possessions, and has had to resort to living in a car she is renting from a friend while she tries to find someone to help her deal with FEMA. Other people I have met are getting the run around from their insurers and by charitable organizations that publicly proclaim that they are available to help. Still others are having expensive contractors foisted upon them by their insurers with the result being to reduce the amount of coverage that will be available down the road.

Some people who have lost everything they own have hired public adjusters before their insurers have even made an offer to them—an offer that will be made and which will be a significant percentage of their policy limits. By agreeing to “pay” a percentage of their recovery to the adjustor, these people are simply giving away that percentage of a significant base amount that will be offered to them without any help from anyone. It is only after that point that an adjustor or other professional advisor will be needed, and the homeowner can then agree to pay a percentage of only whatever additional amount the adjustor might secure for them.

Of equal concern: Many members of our community are not even able to focus on the numerous types of aid that may be available to them, and require someone who knows what they are doing to walk them through the process in an understanding and compassionate manner.

I have friends who are intelligent, educated and level-headed, and are doing their best simply to get out of bed (if they have a bed to get out of) and go outside. When I speak with them and others about insurance, FEMA and other aid that may be available to them, they are unable to process the discussion because they are in shock.

I could write pages and pages about the catastrophe that is overtaking our community, and I could provide specific examples that would make the readers of this post cry (as it has made me do from time to time throughout each day). It is critical that the entire community mobilize to deal with this catastrophe before it is too late.

I know that there are many separate and uncoordinated efforts underway, by separate and uncoordinated groups (both public and private). Some are focused on issues that matter and some issues that matter are being overlooked. There is an urgent need for a coordinated and concerted effort to provide our entire community the aid and information that it requires to deal with this catastrophe. And the problems here likely pale in comparison to what is happening in Paradise.

If there is someone in the public or private sector who has the ability and wherewithal to put together the coordinated and concerted effort needed to save our community and its individual members, I am willing to help with the effort. Unfortunately, I lack the capacity or skill set to do the organizational work. Otherwise, I would take it upon myself to get the ball rolling. Hopefully, this post will reach the right person or organization that has the capacity to undertake and oversee this necessary project. If so, I am here to help along with many other members of our community whose homes were spared and want to do what we can to help our friends, neighbors and community members.

The problem is far greater than any one person or organization can begin to solve. This requires a coordinated and concerted effort of the public and private sectors at the highest levels. If we do not all act quickly, our friends, neighbors and community members will be forever scarred by this tragedy well beyond the initial losses from the fire itself. If possible, the same help is needed in Paradise and likely was needed for the Thomas Fire (but I did not then appreciate the magnitude of the issues that arise in the relief/recovery process). Our community is being ravaged by professionals who are trained to take advantage of victims of catastrophes. Many good people are doing their best to be of service, many more people are doing nothing, and some are capitalizing on the misfortune of others. It is this latter group that we must all join together to battle for the benefit of the members of our community who are unable to do so on their own.

I hope that this post is coherent. I feel as if I could write a better post if I had more time to do so, but time is of the essence. The catastrophe is now and ongoing, and it will keep getting worse if coordinated and concerted action is not taken. Please help!

Bruce Silverstein