The Joplin tornado is Missouri's largest insurance event to date, according to John Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance.
So far, insurers have paid about $1.5 billion on claims, and it is expected that number will approach $2 billion by the time all claims are settled.
As of April 30, more than 19,500 claims had been filed with insurance carriers, totaling $1.5 billion in payouts for commercial and residential properties, automobile, and county claims combined.
Once the tornado subsided - after effectively destroying one-third of the city's infrastructure - carriers moved into immediate action to assist Joplin victims, according to Travis Ford, spokesman for the Department of Insurance.
Carriers used computers in mobile command centers to plot where insured parties were located, get information on damages, and keep track of policyholders' claims statuses. Several insurance companies set up command central stations on parking lots in Joplin within days after the storm.
"Not only was information posted online, but the major companies had maps of the city with lights representing all policyholders in the region. Lights for policyholders that had not been reached were red; lights for policyholders that had filed a claim were changed to green," Ford said. "This assisted with outreach as well as efficiency.
"The Department of Insurance itself kept in close contact electronically with carriers."
Many insurers were immediately distributing funds, issuing checks or debit cards for expenses.
The Department of Insurance continues to issue an urgent message to Joplin residents with incomplete insurance claims related to last year's tornado, Ford said. The department warns homeowners that insurance policies contain 12-month deadlines for consumers to receive full compensation for their damaged property. In these cases, any paperwork submitted after the deadline may result in a lower claim payment.
Huff says some policies have six-month deadlines, but the Department of Insurance directed insurance companies last November to extend those deadlines to at least one year.
"In many cases, consumers are paid the full value for destroyed property after they pay to repair or replace it and turn in receipts to their insurance company," Huff said in a news release. "After all they've been through, we want Joplin residents to receive full reimbursement for their expenses related to tornado recovery."
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