Joplin Residents File Almost 17,000 Insurance Claims

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JOPLIN - The Missouri Department of Insurance says Joplin residents filed almost 17,000 insurance claims after an EF-5 tornado ravaged the city last week. That number includes commercial property, homeowners insurance, and automobile claims among others.

The total damage is estimated to be worth billions of dollars. Last Thursday, Governor Nixon signed an executive order that forbids insurance companies from raising rates or canceling policies for consumers in Joplin and the surrounding counties.

But the insurance agencies KOMU spoke to seemed to stand behind their customers. They stressed the importance of on scene help. An Allstate agent said the agency had mobile agencies in Joplin the evening after the tornado and an American Family Insurance agent said its agency was on scene early Monday morning.

Both agents said it was important to provide immediate assistance, because a lot of their customers were in shock.

"Some of our customers were walking around their neighborhoods without shoes," said Lynn Wobig of Allstate Insurance. "They're in shock. We give them one less thing to worry about, it's the little things, like handing out teddy bears."

The agents both agreed Mid-Missourians make mistakes when shopping for insurance. Wobig said sometimes customers shop for the lowest price instead of what's covered under a policy.

"People never expect it to happen to them." said Wobig.

Renters are more likely to be uninsured than homeowners, and often don't realize it doesn't cost much to be covered. The numbers from Joplin support that statement, while about 6,000 homeowners insurance claims were filed, only 442 renters insurance claims have been filed so far.

The Department of Insurance said it's too early to know how the claims correspond to the damage in Joplin, but that it is safe to say there are a significant number of claims that have yet to come in.