Jim Donelon

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon told the Press Club of Baton Rouge, Feb. 17, that he would back what he calls "tort reform" legislation this year. (Photo by Mark Ballard, The Advocate)

BATON ROUGE, La. - Days after ordering insurance firms to cover evacuation costs for Hurricane Ida survivors, Louisiana's top insurance regulator said his office has received complaints that around a dozen companies are refusing to follow his directive.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon on Thursday ordered insurance providers to pay for up to two weeks of hotel rooms and meals for residents who fled the region because of the storm, even if they weren't in mandatory evacuation zones.

But speaking at the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday, Donelon said the Louisiana Department of Insurance had received around 85 complaints of insurance companies rebuffing that directive.

A spokesperson for the department said those complaints are confidential, though Donelon said 10 or so complaints concerned State Farm and several others related to Allstate.

Donelon said he was motivated to issue the directive last week after officials at State Farm — which has the largest market share across Louisiana — told him they wouldn't follow a non-binding bulletin he had published days earlier urging insurers to voluntarily cover evacuation costs.

Many insurance policies will cover short-term expenses related to evacuation only if jurisdictions issue mandatory evacuation orders.

There were mandatory evacuations in Assumption, St. Charles, Terrebonne, Lafourche and for communities outside the levee system in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.

Donelon said it’s likely if there was enough time before Ida made landfall, evacuations would have been mandatory across South Louisiana. But the severity and trajectory of the storm didn’t make that possible.

Allstate, USAA and United Property and Casualty decided to offer living expenses to policyholders without the evacuation requirement. But Donelon said State Farm has been hesitant to cover those expenses without a mandatory order.

In a statement Monday, State Farm said it is "committed to pay what we owe and encourage our policyholders who have suffered a loss to submit a claim."

Donelon said he doesn't have an estimate for how much his order will cost insurance companies, but last week said it was "not an exorbitant amount of money."

"State Farm can’t ignore my order. No insurer can," Donelon said Thursday. "I’m their regulator. But they can challenge it in court or in the Division of Administrative Law. And we are anticipating such a challenge. If not from State Farm, then from one of the other 136 insurance companies that write policies in our state."

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