As highlighted in the second issue of Roofing Insights Magazine, John Houghtaling is the roofing industry’s foremost expert when it comes to battling insurance companies over their refusal to pay out on claims.
In an interview that first aired last year, Roofing Insights founder Dmitry Lipinskiy asked Houghtaling why, in the wake of the natural disaster that occurred in Lake Charles, Louisiana, he was adamant about promising to pursue litigation against big companies like State Farm and Allstate.
In typical John Houghtaling fashion, his answer did not fail to impress.
“It’s more of a promise than a threat,”
he told Lipinskiy.
“If we catch you [insurance entities] committing insurance fraud, we’re going to move to have you prosecuted. We’re not going to just sue you.”
As a man who financially benefits from insurance companies low-balling or even outright refusing to pay out on their clients’ claims, it’s worth asking why Houghtaling is so determined to put an end to the constant malpractice exhibited by the insurance companies.
But even for a man as decorated and financially secure as Houghtaling, he still understands just how important it is that the powers that be are held accountable for their actions.
“In Katrina, we discovered that they [insurance companies] weren’t just low-balling the claims. We caught engineering companies faking causation reports,”
Houghtaling recalled, going on to say how a common misconception held by the general public is that it is everyday people who commit insurance fraud.
Yet, Houghtaling is quick to note that fraudulent behavior is a two-way street, and that often insurance companies are just as guilty of criminal behavior as the clients they are paid to insure.
“There are two sides documenting claims,”
Houghtaling told Lipinskiy.
“And in most cases, all of the assets are in the hands of the insurance company. It’s an adversarial process, and it should be, but you need a balance.”
“The problem is all of our policy premiums go to fund the companies whose job it is to pay as little as possible. And sometimes they cheat. When there’s money involved, sometimes people cheat.”
Houghtaling first noticed the insurance companies’ egregious misconduct back in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina first decimated New Orleans. At the time, many engineering companies were faking damage reports, a move that stood to benefit the insurance companies mightily, considering the United States government was dumping tons of money into relief aid for the citizens of New Orleans.
Back then, Houghtaling participated in suing insurance companies who refused to pay out on claims. As previously mentioned, doing so was of immense benefit to Houghtaling’s bank account, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he then noticed that insurance companies were still committing fraudulent behavior.
His re-discovery of the doctoring of damage reports happened when Superstorm Sandy ravaged New York state, and on cue, Houghtaling and his legal team were quick to bring the culprits to court.
“My law firm was reported to have filed more than 80% of the litigation funding in the Tri-State area,”
During the course of the investigations and subsequent lawsuits, what Houghtaling’s team learned was nothing short of appalling.
“Not only was the same conduct happening, the same faking of reports; but it was the same companies. Not even just that. It was the same individuals doing this. They weren’t just low-balling reports. They were faking the facts of the reports.”
This misconduct was highlighted by 60 Minutes, and while certain individuals did receive stiff punishments for their crimes, since the trials were conducted in civil court, there was no criminal precedent set for if these injustices were to occur once again in the future.
“Superstorm Sandy was a turning point for me,”
“At that moment in my career, I thought I changed something. I thought I changed the game and shed light on wrongdoings, but then six months later I got reports from roofing companies that those guys were back in business and doing the same things.”
At this point in his conversation with Lipinskiy, Houghtaling transitioned the conversation toward what he will do in the wake of the wreckage down in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and what his firm will do to combat the insurance companies.
“This isn’t just civil litigation that we should sue them for. These engineers and adjusters don’t care if you sue their clients. They make more money that way,”
As the founder of the American Policyholders Association, Houghtaling now heads a team of lawyers who have the manpower to properly adjudicate criminal behavior at the highest levels of corruption.
Even better, Houghtaling now has the backing of key figures in government.
“We now are setting up SIU (Special Investigation Units). We met with the FBI, the attorney general, the DA, insurance commissioners, and in Louisiana I’ve met with Jim Donelon and Jeff Landry of the local FBI division. We told them of what happened and the pattern that’s been going on since Katrina,”
With the manpower he has assembled, and with his already stellar reputation serving as a stark reminder to the insurance companies of the type of influence he holds, it appears the affected citizens of Lake Charles will finally receive the compensation they so rightly deserve.
Fortunately, if the insurance companies attempt to mimic the same behavior they exhibited during previous natural disasters, policyholders can rest easy knowing John Houghtaling has their back.
Said Houghtaling, in closing:
“We’re ready now. We’re going to be watching, and if they fake engineering reports, we’re not going to just sue them. We’re going to the authorities.”
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