Posted on 19 May 2010
Some Tennessee homeowners have been surprised to learn their policies won't pay for flood damage and an attorney and lobbyist is warning insurance agents not to admit to any wrongdoing if clients confront them about the problem.
"Very important: DO NOT ADMIT TO DOING ANYTHING WRONG!!" a letter from Insurors of Tennessee lobbyist Ashley Arnold reads.
The letter, first reported by WSMV-TV, was sent to thousands of agents and advises them that they generally do not have an obligation to offer flood insurance. At least 2,000 homes were damaged in Nashville alone and many more throughout Tennessee in flooding earlier this month.
"We suggest you respond to the client that they did not ask for flood coverage (if your records indicate that they or their lender did not make this request)," the letter reads.
It also warns agents that their errors and omissions coverage -- similar to malpractice insurance coverage for doctors -- could be in jeopardy if they admit mistakes.
A message for Arnold requesting comment was not immediately returned on Tuesday afternoon.
Nashville attorney David Raybin said he is considering a lawsuit challenging insurance agents, who have a duty to explain coverage options to their clients.
Of the letter, he says, "It's the same kind of advice I would give to a criminal client. It implies they've done something wrong."
Raybin said one of the biggest complaints he is hearing is from people who have flood insurance but did not know they had to take out a separate policy for the contents of their homes. The main policy covers only the building.
Raybin said he believes agents trying to sell a package of insurance might leave off some coverage, such as contents, so that they could offer a low price.
"They're trying to get your business," he said.