Homeowner Feels Revictimized By Insurers

keteyian grab, home construction w/ trailer CBS

When Hurricane Katrina ripped through Ocean Springs, Miss., it tore Rodney Freeman's home and heart apart.

"We walked in, everything was rearranged. Black mud, crabs in the house. You know when you see crabs in the house something's wrong," he said tells CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian.

Still, Freeman figured he was one of the lucky ones. After all, he had double-barreled protection; $201,000 from Nationwide Mutual against wind damage and $115,000 in flood from Empire Fire and Marine. It was more than twice the replacement cost of his three-bedroom house and its contents.

But now, two years after Katrina, Freeman's house is still unfixed.

"Everybody don't pay homeowners insurance," Freeman says. "Some people can't have it, you know, but they need it. And you get it and it ain't worth nothing. Not nothing. It ain't worth nothing."

A single father raising a teenage son, Freeman has worked at the local post office for 21 years, faithfully paying his premiums.

Then Katrina hit.

Primary Source Blog: Katrina, Profits Over People
First, adjusters for the flood insurer offered $4,003.12 to fix the kitchen. That was less than half of the $11,319.55 a local contractor estimated it would cost.

After 14 months of endless pleading, Freeman had what he felt were take-it-or-leave-it offers totaling $63,438.67 from both insurers. Again, it was less than half of what was needed to fix his home. He took it to attorney Danielle Brewer.

"He has lost money because they didn't pay him timely; because he was left with no choice but to hire an attorney to help," Brewer said.

But after legal fees and two years of living expenses, the money Brewer pried out of the insurers, Freeman says, was still not enough.

"It takes a Hurricane Katrina for everyone to discover that they really don't have protection they've paid for."

In statements, Nationwide says it is doing "all it can to resolve outstanding Katrina claims as quickly as possible," while Empire said it "it appropriately adjusted and paid Mr. Freeman's claim for flood loss."

The Mississippi Insurance Department says 98 percent of claims have been settled. But nobody is saying just how many of those folks are like Freeman, at a loss to explain the real cost of $316,000 in "coverage."

"That wasn't enough money. So I need the federal government to help me?" he asks. "Ain't that something."

  • Michelle Singer

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