TikTok video helps Louisiana girl with storm claims

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) – A Lake Charles woman recognizes the power of social media to get one step closer to repairing her hurricane-damaged home after weeks of roadblocks with her insurance claim.

Tara Parks recently posted several videos on the TikTok social media app. She told more than 80,000 followers about her insurance company’s refusal to acknowledge the extent of the damage Hurricane Laura had caused to her home.

“Knowing that I had a platform, I thought it was worth a try,” said 33-year-old Parks on Tuesday.

A video has almost 600,000 views. Parks ‘followers eventually shared their TikTok videos on insurance companies’ Facebook pages.

“Strangers shared it,” she said. “I was grateful to the fact that so many non-Louisiana people care when it doesn’t concern them. It really got the word out. “

Less than a week after the videos were released, Parks said the customization company called her on Monday and asked what could be done to make her home habitable again.

Parks bought her first home on May 1, 2020 and lived there with her four children and her fiancé Joseph. Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana on August 27 as a strong Category 4 storm, causing widespread damage across the region. Parks said a tree fell on her home and damaged parts of the roof structure. Her family has lived in a rental house in Sulfur since the storm.

“It’s tight,” she said. “It is very stressful.”

Parks said her insurance company had a local restoration firm inspect the house two weeks after Laura was hit. The report pointed to roof damage causing water to penetrate all walls. Gutting the house and doing water reduction works would cost more than $ 41,000. Parks said her insurance company claimed the assessment was wrong.

“The desk adjuster said, ‘We won’t accept that,” she said.

Parks said her contractor also found “clear signs” of water in the walls that had come in through the damaged roof.

The insurance company’s initial payouts to parks of just over $ 28,000 were to be paid for other repairs like replacing a covered porch and damaged shed, as well as a new fence. Instead, it was spent on gutting the house and doing structural repairs. That left no money for a new roof, she said.

Four months after Laura hit, Parks said the insurance company hired its own engineering firm to get a second opinion on the damage assessment.

“We thought the engineer would show what we already knew,” said Parks of the damage.

Conditions had changed in the months since Laura’s landing. The house’s air conditioning was now on. Drier, cooler weather would affect a second water damage assessment.

Parks was stunned when the engineer’s report said the gutting of the house was not warranted and claimed the house’s frames and walls were in good condition. Based on these findings, insurance company Laura offered a payout of $ 5,622 and a payout of $ 2,411 for Hurricane Delta, a category 2 storm that hit southwest Louisiana on October 9th.

“This is not going to replace my walls or floors,” said Parks. “Obviously I was very upset.”

Parks’ frustration led them to post the videos on TikTok and shed light on the challenges that residents of southwest Louisiana face with their insurance claims.

“That’s the case with a lot of people,” she said.

Parks already knew how many people could be reached through their social media. A TikTok video she posted in August has been viewed more than 2 million times.

“I’m fortunate to have a social platform, but what about anyone who doesn’t,” she asked.

Parks said she had two lawyers on hand in case the insurance company didn’t respond.

“That’s what they urge people to do,” she said. “You either have to accept what they give you or you have to complain. That was not supposed to be like that. “

She advised local residents dealing with the same issues to be resilient, whether by sharing their stories on social media or talking to a lawyer.

“You will get to a point where you can no longer fight and you will accept what the insurance company makes for you,” said Parks. “Keep fighting and keep pushing. Social media occupies a large place in this whole ordeal. “

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