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Insurers paid $200 million to Mass. tornado victims, state reports

State says 98% of claims settled

Insurance companies have paid $200 million to policy holders from last June’s tornadoes in Western and Central Massachusetts, settling more than 98 percent of claims, state officials announced Tuesday.

More than 81 percent of claims were paid within four months of the storm, the state’s Insurance Division reported after compiling information from the state’s 25 largest insurers.

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State officials said the response has helped the Springfield region recover from the violent storms.

“We are seeing Western and Central Massachusetts recover nobly and ably, and it is encouraging to see rebuilding happening throughout the region,’’ said Greg Bialecki, the secretary of housing and economic development. “Getting claims quickly and effectively handled help homeowners and business owners get the money they need in a timely manner and help the rebuilding process.’’

By early April, 11,521 insurance claims had been filed for automobile, home, or commercial damage. The 10,764 auto and property claims generated $167.9 million in claim payments, the report found. The 757 commercial claims generated $32.4 million in claims.

Homeowners and businesses have also received more than $26.7 million in federal disaster assistance to cover uninsured losses. The state Housing Department has helped hundreds of families find emergency shelter and financed $525,000 in home repair. The state Transportation Department has allocated $2.3 million to repair damaged roads.

More than 60 percent of personal property claims were settled in June or July. The average payment increased as time went on, from $5,955 in June to $26,890 in September, indicating that claims involving more extensive damage took longer to appraise.

Consumers filed 41 complaints with their insurer, the report found. About a half-dozen complaints remain open. The most frequent complaints were unhappiness with estimates and delays.

State officials urged homeowners to carry sufficient insurance, noting that those who have paid off their mortgage are not legally obligated to do so.

“Some of the most frequent problems we have found from homeowners is not having insurance or not having enough insurance to cover the cost of repairs,’’ said Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of the state’s consumer affairs office. “By taking the time to review a policy and maybe spending a few extra dollars a year for adequate coverage, homeowners can be assured they are fully covered in times of crisis.’’

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com.
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