Anger against Tenn. insurance agents rises as flood waters subside

With Tennessee residents left reeling after a weekend of severe storms, tornadoes and now flooding, residents are getting assistance from the federal government, but are considering action against their local insurance agents.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen announced that the federal government has authorized a major disaster declaration for 21 counties, making assistance available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency is urging residents with damage to register online or call them to start the process immediately.

“We can see President Obama and other federal officials continue to move quickly to process our requests and announce declarations for more counties,” Bredesen said in a statement. “I expect us to continue to see additional counties authorized for federal assistance as the damage assessments continue, which will be tremendously helpful to Tennesseans who suffered losses as they work to rebuild.”

While that aid is forthcoming, so is a potential lawsuit against insurance agents who never told residents about flood insurance, according to WTVF in Nashville, Tenn.

The station reports that attorney David Raybin of Hollins, Raybin & Weissman is considering a suit against several insurance agents following the flood.

According to a statement on the firm’s site, a large number of people are contacting their insurers, only to learn they are not covered for water damage caused by the recent storm.

“A great many homeowners wrongly thought they were protected, only to find their insurance agent neglected to sell them the proper and necessary insurance,” the statement says.

Raybin told WTVF that agents “want to sell as quickly as they can and not have a lot of claims.

“They say ‘okay just sign here and you’re insured,’” he told the station, adding that insurance agents have an obligation to inform clients about the National Flood Insurance Program run through FEMA. Failure to do otherwise, he stated, is malpractice.

“There have been a lot of lawsuits around the country for agents not telling people about this,” said Raybin.