Lawsuits filed Monday against insurance companies ahead of derecho anniversary

As KCRG TV-9's Kristin Rogers reports, the storm passing one year ago means homeowners could lose leverage in a fight with an insurance company.
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 11:15 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - One year after the derecho, some homeowners are still battling their insurance companies to get claims approved so they can make major repairs.

Tuesday’s one-year derecho anniversary means homeowners could lose leverage in that fight. While claims can typically be made further out, most insurance policies in Iowa allow homeowners a one-year deadline to take legal action after the date of loss, in this case, the date of the storm.

That’s why attorney Greg Usher filed 67 lawsuits against insurance companies on Monday.

“The thought that it would only be one year for a lawsuit to need to be filed in this situation when it’s catastrophic city-wide loss, it just seems like there should be something or there is something someone can do to force an extension there,” Usher said.

A second attorney named James Larew told us he would be filing 30 to 40 lawsuits on behalf of homeowners prior to the derecho anniversary.

Aleasha LeClere and her family of five haven’t been able to live in their northeast Cedar Rapids home since the derecho, because water damage led to toxic mold and her insurance won’t cover the needed repairs.

“We have to prove we didn’t put water in the walls, we have to prove all this stuff when even then, in turn, they don’t turn around and approve you know the coverage that is obviously blatantly needed,” LeClere said.

Caeden Tinklenberg is the CEO of Swift Public Adjusters. He’s been helping derecho survivors try and get their insurance claims approved to get their homes fixed.

“The stories of these people that are getting railroaded is really what it is, getting railroaded by their insurance company because they don’t have time to work through the disputes,” Tinklenberg said.

Usher told us it’s been hard to watch families struggle since the storm as this is why people take out insurance and believe that doing so covers their losses.

“This is their home, like where they raise their kids, where their families live, the most expensive thing they’ll ever buy and they’re having to figure out whether to cash in portions of their 401k to pay an attorney or to pay somebody else to, like, help them,” Usher said.

For most, it’s been a race against a 365-day clock, in case they need to take legal action.

“You can look to some of the neighboring states for how long they give police holders and Nebraska I believe is three, South Dakota is six. So one year is significantly less than that obviously and it’s just not a reasonable amount of time,” Tinklenberg said.

The Iowa Insurance Division is encouraging insurance companies to grant extensions on the right to sue deadline for homeowners who request one given the circumstances. If those requests get denied, they want people to reach out and file a complaint with their office.

For homeowners like LeClere, one year has simply not been long enough.

“This is probably the hardest thing we’ve ever gone through,” LeClere said.

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