Thursday, September 20, 2018
Politics

About a third of insurance claims from Florida's 2016 hurricanes left unpaid

TALLAHASSEE — Nearly one out of every three people who have put in a damage claim from the two hurricanes that hit Florida this year won't receive a nickel to cover the cost, state data shows.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation released new statistics Tuesday that show hurricanes Hermine and Matthew caused a combined $824 million in insured losses. More than 120,000 claims have been submitted for the two storms combined, but about 42,000 have been resolved with no payments to the property owners. Another 33,000 claims have yet to be resolved.

State regulators say the payment rate, so far, isn't unusual. Florida's new insurance commissioner, David Altmaier, told Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday that officials are closely watching insurers for trends showing companies are slow to respond to claims or engage in conduct that would prompt a reaction from his agency.

"Obviously there are going to be complaints in times like these, but we haven't seen trends or patterns that this is an unreasonable number of unresolved claims," Altmaier said afterward.

Hurricane Hermine hit North Florida in September. Hurricane Matthew buzzed Florida's east coast in October.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a member of the Cabinet, said those who don't get paid often put in a claim for something that ultimately wasn't covered under the policy they had or that the damage is less than the deductible. Atwater said the numbers may be high because he and others have encouraged people to file a claim even if they aren't sure.

The Division of Consumer Services, which Atwater oversees, has received just 205 complaint calls from people upset that their claim was denied, it was too low or the company dragged its feet.

Altmaier said the 2016 hurricane season has not put any insurers in financial jeopardy, like what happened frequently a decade ago when some companies did not provide enough money to cover claims.

"We don't see any signs at this point — and we don't expect to see any signs — that an insurance company would have trouble meeting their financial obligations," Altmaier said.

Contact Jeremy Wallace at [email protected] Follow @JeremySWallace.

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