Thousands of Katrina victims have had to file suits over flood damage, insurance settlement disputes, alleged wrongful deaths, oil spills, ruined oyster beds, eroded wetlands, evictions, and disputes with contractors involved in rebuilding efforts. The new lawsuits are being filed into a court system that is struggling mightily to recover from the disruptions caused by the flooding and evacuations that followed Katrina, which hit on August 29th. Because of the storm, many of the court systems were virtually shut down. The local courts are now in a struggle to catch up with the backlog of trials, while handling the new litigation related to Katrina. It will be virtually impossible to get juries that reflect the make-up of the population. In some places, getting a jury will be impossible. This will be a big problem because of the area’s diminished population. New Orleans presently has an estimated 150,000 to 190,000 residents, down from about 462,000 in 2004. A shortage of jurors — and the court delays that could result — could particularly affect residents and business owners who badly need to resolve insurance disputes. It will especially hard to reschedule jury trials in Orleans Parish, St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish, the localities hit hardest by flooding. It will now be impossible to get juries that will reflect the demographics of pre-Katrina days.
It has become very much evident that the insurance companies have taken advantage of thousands of homeowners. Many of their policyholders have no home or business and yet owe mortgage payments. They are tired of waiting for answers. This has become another major disaster for these folks. I didn’t expect the numbers of lawsuits filed to slow down. In fact, they will likely increase. People are in need and are hurting. Most haven’t hired a lawyer because they expected their insurance company to do the right thing and pay claims promptly. Instead, insurance companies have been very slow in paying claims. As a result, thousands of insurance claims are piling up in state courts. More than 50 insurance companies have been sued after refusing to pay for damages. Hopefully, some order will come to a very bad situation and soon.
Source: USA Today
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