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Augusta homeowner's insurance claims from ice storm continue

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After four months with a windowless living room, Paul Gambill got the view back to his front yard in National Hills last week.

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A large oak tree fell on Paul Gambill's National Hills home in February.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
A large oak tree fell on Paul Gambill's National Hills home in February.

Repairmen hauled away a large piece of plywood and replaced it with a sparkling new window, measuring roughly 3 feet by 10 feet.

“I wouldn’t want to do that again,” said Gambill, 30, of the repair to the Springwood Drive home he bought in December 2012.

The window was part of the $45 million in estimated damages Georgia property owners reported from the Feb. 11 ice storm that hit Augusta harder than any city statewide.

Gambill is among the final few to have claims resolved, and the area’s major insurance companies hope it’s a sign the city is near full recovery.

Last week, Daniel Groce, a spokesman for Allstate Insurance, said the company has closed 99 percent of the claims from the storm.

Nationwide spokeswoman Elizabeth Stelzer said her company has closed 98 percent of the 829 storm claims.

Gambill’s insurer, State Farm, reported similar results.

Through July, spokesman Justin Tomczak said State Farm received 3,144 claims and paid about $12.9 million as a result of the ice and snow that hit Georgia Feb. 11 through Feb. 13.

Tomczak also said the company received 771 auto claims and paid about $1.8 million from freeze, wind and falling debris activity statewide Feb. 11 through Feb. 14.

Gambill said construction workers will return to his home by the end of the month to install a new gutter system, seal cracks in a bedroom ceiling and replace two walls facing the carport of his house.

All were damaged when a 60-foot-tall oak tree fell on his house Feb. 11 about 11:30 p.m. The tree took out the front window, its adjoining roof and half of the living room ceiling, which until mid-June was covered with a tarp.

Gambill said he was not home, but his roommate was.

“He was very startled,” Gambill said. “He said it was the loudest sound he had ever heard.”

Gambill said he filed a claim the next day, and three days later, a tree service removed the fallen oak. An adjuster came out the first week in March to survey the damage.

Gambill said State Farm worked fast to process the payment for the repairs. He attributed the delay to contractor bids coming in higher than insurance payments, which experts say is one of many reasons why the recovery process, especially those involving a large volume of claims, might take time to complete.

Jamie Kimbrough, the executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service, said it’s possible that a contractor could find additional damage that wasn’t at first visible to the adjuster, and that can increase the cost of repairs.

“In such cases, a homeowner may seek additional payment from his/her insurer,” he said. “That process takes time, because the insurer must have another adjuster inspect the property, make a valuation and recommend additional payment amount for any previously undiscovered damage.”

Gambill, who is getting married in March, said that he, State Farm and his contractor ultimately agreed on additional costs and that he has only one complaint about the process.

“We haven’t had too many surprises, except for this, at our new house,” he said. “I hope it is the last.”

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