Galen M. Hair Learned the Tricks Property Insurance Companies Use to Deny Claims Then Founded Insurance Claim HQ to Make Them Pay

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on February 21, 2023

Galen M. Hair is not ashamed that he represented property insurance companies in their legal efforts to avoid paying claims, but he is much happier now suing them on behalf of families who realized after their house was destroyed that their insurance company is nothing like a good neighbor and that they are not in good hands.

Hair is a happy example of someone successfully following his heart, even though his heart was not originally leading him toward a career in law. He majored in opera with a vague goal of becoming a musician. Traveling around the US after college took him in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He volunteered to help gut moldy, flooded houses as the first step in rebuilding. He fell in love with the city and started a nonprofit, which brought him in contact with other volunteers, including many law students.

“There wasn’t a massive amount of intentionality” to his decision to apply to law school, Hair said. “I happened to be surrounded by all these law students and lawyers who were helping. I thought they were making a big difference. At that point, I kind of decided that law school might be right for me.”

Everything in New Orleans at the time was a mess, including the city’s respected law schools. “I took the LSAT and  figured the New Orleans law schools might be very interested in acquiring new students, given that they had to sit out of recruiting season,” Hair said.

The price of a house in New Orleans had plummeted (it has since more than rebounded). Hair bought a house for a pittance, spent three years making it habitable, and successfully graduated from Tulane Law School. His first job, after passing the bar, was as an associate with Ropes & Gray, a long established international law firm headquartered in Manhattan. The firm represents the iconic global insurer Lloyds of London.

“My job was to find coverage exceptions, so my clients would not have to pay,” Hair said. “While it was an excellent intellectual exercise – I learned a lot about insurance and how carriers think – it was completely counter to my personal values.”

Hair left New York during the Great Recession and returned to New Orleans, where he took a job with a boutique defense firm doing basically the same work as he had at Ropes & Grey.

“I eventually reached my maximum dosage of doing work that was counter to who I am as a person and that led me to go out and hang my own shingle,” he said, explaining his decision to open his own firm, Insurance Claims HQ.

Meet the contingency fee, bane of insurance companies

Frequently, the people who retain Insurance Claims HQ are desperate. They have lost their house and called their insurance company. The friendly agent who sold them their policy has referred them to a claims adjuster who has a narrower interpretation of what their policy covers than the agent had when they bought it. They have faithfully paid their premium every month for years for exactly this situation, but instead of rebuilding they are looking for an attorney to fight a recalcitrant insurance company with a weak case but an essentially unlimited legal budget.

Thanks to the contingency fee, a novel feature of the US court system, they can afford a lawyer like Galen M. Hair, who has been rated a Super Lawyers Rising Star and voted one of the National Trial Lawyers Top 100. Attorneys working for a contingency fee are only paid from whatever settlement they eventually win.

“We represent policyholders, whether they’re residential or commercial, who are having issues getting their insurance company to compensate them for covered losses. I would say 99.9% of our clients hire us on contingency,” Hair said. “We take all the financial risks. If we don’t recover for them, they won’t pay us a penny.”

While a plaintiff doesn’t need any money upfront to hire an attorney on contingency, they do need a very good case. Lawyers working on contingency can’t afford to lose, at least not very often. Before Insurance Claim HQ accepts a client, they carefully read their property insurance policy.

“If they’re covered we will represent them,” Hair said. “Firestorms and things like that, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s a claim we can help with, but it gets more complicated when you start talking about collapses and explosions.”

Hair figures that Insurance Claim HQ has represented about 1,700 clients in the few years since he opened the practice. In total, including affiliate attorneys, the practice employs about 800 people. Hair is proud that he didn’t lay off anyone during the pandemic, and gratified that not a single employee has quit.

“Between me and my partner, Alexander Shunnarah, we employ about 800 people, which is gargantuan,” Hair said. “I’m probably managing about 180 on a given day.”

The staff-to-attorney-to-staff ratio at Insurance Claim HQ – two support staff for each attorney – is higher than most firms because Insurance Claim HQ provides services uncommon at other law firms. “I have a team of 14 dedicated to helping clients find housing, which my competitors don’t do,” Hair said.

Galen M. Hair knows hurricanes

People in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast region refer to hurricanes by name, as we all do except that in the Gulf Coast people are familiar with hurricanes people elsewhere have never heard of or quickly forgotten.

In October 2020 Hair’s own house was clobbered by Hurricane Zeta, which was the last (at least alphabetically) of a long line of hurricanes that season. 

Hurricane Laura hit in August of 2020, and it just ravaged West Louisiana,” Hair said. “Then Hurricane Sally hit Alabama, and Hurricane Delta hit West Louisiana again, right where Hurricane Laura had hit.

“Now we’re in October of 2020. We really have not had time to recover. I am running around like a crazy human between Alabama and Louisiana, trying to make sure that our teams are doing what they need to do to protect these clients and move things forward.

“After back-to-back hurricanes, Zeta and Delta, the roof was ripped off my house and it was flooded. Amanda (his longtime girlfriend) always reminds me of the time I said I’d be back in three days during Hurricane Laura but was gone for seven months. She called and jokingly asked if we had any plans to stop the rain in our house. I realized I had totally forgotten my own insurance claim while I was running around doing all these things.”

Hair’s connection with, and empathy for, his clients naturally deepened as he also dealt with an insurance claim for a badly damaged roof and a fast spreading mold problem.

“My situation wasn’t catastrophic, but when clients called I could tell them ‘Believe me, I understand’,” he said. ”Despite the added stress, I never felt overwhelmed because my focus was solely on my clients.”

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Peter Page is an Editor-at-Large at Grit Daily. He is available to record live, old-school style interviews via Zoom, and run them at Grit Daily and Apple News, or BlockTelegraph for a fee.Formerly at, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked as a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.

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