Friday, February 16, 2018
Business

Insurance claims from Tropical Storm Debby, so far, 'relatively light'

Tropical Storm Debby is certainly a rainmaker, but it's not wreaking major damage.

At least not yet.

The Insurance Information Institute said its member insurance companies in Florida reported "relatively light" claims volume as of Monday afternoon. The biggest homeowners' insurer in Florida, state-run Citizens Property Insurance, and the biggest private insurer, State Farm, gave similar assessments.

Most claims involved roof damage, and flooded cars and houses. "The flooding claims coming in now are mostly related to cars," said Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute.

McChristian said it's premature, however, to assume the claims volume will remain low as the week goes on. "If the rains keep coming," she said, "it's likely to be a different story."

Wind damage is covered under homeowners' policies, but property owners planning to file a flood claim must carry a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. Repairing or replacing water-logged cars is handled under the comprehensive coverage of a standard auto policy.

About 80 percent of the roughly 500 claims filed with Citizens Property by Monday afternoon were from Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando counties.

Nearly half the claims were coded for wind damage and 30 percent were leaking roofs, Citizens spokeswoman Christine Turner Ashburn said.

Unlike Citizens, which only covers properties, State Farm agents were fielding auto-related claims as well. State Farm spokeswoman Michal Connolly offered a few tips for motorists handling a vehicle damaged by flood:

• Do not start or operate the vehicle.

• Disconnect the battery.

• Move the car from the flooded area by towing with the drive wheels off the ground to avoid mechanical damage.

In a conference call with state emergency management leaders, representatives of retailers, hotel operators and restaurant owners reported no major damage or other issues yet. With the exception of Franklin County and a cut-off St. George Island, state officials said there were no regions in need of emergency water or other supplies.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at [email protected]

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