By Jonathan Eastwood, features editor
Many Grand Isle residents that survived Hurricane Ida are now faced with rebuilding damaged houses and camps. But, for some, insurance is not paying enough to cover the cost of damages, leading them to take legal action.
“I used to live at our camp, and it was a beautiful camp,” says Dane Baker, whose family camp on Grand Isle was severely damaged in the storm.
Baker said his family’s property received upwards of $40,000 in damages, but insurance was only willing to pay $2,000. He says because of this, the camp will have to be demolished.
“The insurance is doing us dirty,” Baker says. “We’re probably gonna have to knock down our camp completely because we’re not gonna have the money to fix it. It really makes me sad – it makes me so sad to be treated this way by the insurance company and have to just destroy the thing I love so much.”
— Dane Baker, camp owner
Michael Johnson, a public building consultant, says he inspected a home in Grand Isle that sustained enough damage to shift the building on its foundation. However, its owners still received insurance estimates lower than necessary to fix the damage.
“This particular one, I’ve already written the estimate on it,” says Johnson. “My estimate was three times more than her [insurance] estimate.”
Some are taking legal action against their insurance companies. Attorneys are reaching out to help the public with their claims. At a public meeting for those curious about moving forward with claims against their insurance companies, attorney Michael Moore presented a scenario that may take place if legal action is not taken.
“It’s been 193 days since Hurricane Ida hit – we shouldn’t be having this conversation right now,” Moore says. “But the scarier number is that it’s been 560 days since [Hurricanes] Laura and Delta hit Lake Charles and it’s still nothing but blue tarps [on the roofs].”
Attorney Beau Brooks says he heard stories of insurance companies refusing to contact their clients whose homes were in unlivable conditions. This is not only localized to Grand Isle, but much of South Louisiana, says Brooks.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in Grand Isle, if you’re in Cutoff, or if you’re in Larose – you’re just seeing a lot of people continuing to have problems with their insurance companies paying,” says Brooks.
Baker’s grandmother recently began legal proceedings against the family’s wind insurance provider to seek the compensation she says they are owed.
“There’s no reason why you pay a company for years and years, give them tens of thousands of dollars, and then they don’t wanna help you out at all,” Baker says. “That’s just plain wrong.”
Some people with property on the island say they received adequate payment from the start and do not need to seek legal action, but they also acknowledge the trouble others currently face.
“Some people did good, some people had to get lawyers,” says Donnie Camardelle, a Grand Isle camp owner. “There might be two out of 10 [that are] satisfied.”