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Insurance Assessors Spread Out Across Flooded Louisiana

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Many residents of the flooded areas of Louisiana are trying to figure out how to rebuild. Most who fled their homes don't have flood insurance, meaning they now have to navigate a complex state and federal aid system. For those who are covered for flooding, insurance assessors are now on the ground, helping them figure out what they're getting. Mark Cockerham has been coordinating work by assessors for State Farm Insurance, the biggest insurer in Louisiana. He joined us on the phone from Baton Rouge. Welcome.

MARK COCKERHAM: Thank you, Renee. Good to talk to you this morning.

MONTAGNE: Yes, and I do gather you have some 300 assessors out there working with customers on the ground in southern Louisiana. What kind of damage are you all seeing?

COCKERHAM: Yeah, you know, this is a significant event. You know, when we think about even a historical event, I think that's a very good description. And as I've been out, I would say that, you know, really just proud of the citizens of Louisiana - helping neighbors, helping friends and sometimes helping complete strangers recover from this in the early days now into a week or so later. It's been very inspiring.

MONTAGNE: If I'm a homeowner and have a policy with State Farm Insurance, what are the sorts of things that people should know and should be looking for in terms of what they might be insured for?

COCKERHAM: The homeowner's policy that most people have in this circumstance - first and foremost, it does not cover flood. Flood coverage is a separate coverage that is available to customers, whether they live in a flood zone or non-flood zone. It's underwritten by FEMA, but it is separate of the homeowner's. So if you think about your homeowner's coverage, it is really real damage - for example, leaks. The ground gets very saturated from these events, so you could have fallen debris - a tree falls on top of a house. So there are incidents like that where the homeowner's coverage would come into play. But flooding is separate coverage and separate of that.

MONTAGNE: Well, we got numbers from State Farm Insurance, and there have been, so far, 17,600 - approximately - auto claims and 7,300 home insurance claims, which makes this a much bigger auto insurance event than anything else.

COCKERHAM: It really does. Many vehicles are not only damaged at maybe offices or at homes, but some folks just had to leave their vehicles stranded on the road. You know, keep it in mind that about 4 out of 5 State Farm customers have comprehensive coverage, which does cover that vehicle and flood-type circumstance. But again, recognizing that a car doesn't have to take on a whole lot of water to become a fairly substantial loss.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for joining us.

COCKERHAM: Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: Mark Cockerham is a vice president of State Farm Insurance, based in Baton Rouge. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.