It’s been nine months since Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle.
But insurance companies still have yet to pay out more than 21,000 claims, state officials say.
That’s about 15 percent of all claims from the historic Category 5 storm, Office of Insurance Regulation Commissioner David Altmaier told Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Cabinet on Thursday.
Altmaier said afterward that the figure is “discouraging.” By law, insurance companies are supposed to pay claims within 90 days of being filed, if the claims are not contested.
After the meeting, Altmaier’s office sent insurance companies another warning that they need to pay their claims on time. They sent another warning in December, when 42,000 claims were still open.
“Insurers should redouble efforts to resolve all open claims, using whatever resources are necessary, to provide policyholders with the tools to rebuild their lives and property,” Thursday’s letter states.
Last month, the Times detailed how homeowners have been battling with their insurers, complaining of unanswered calls or payments that are too small or too slow.
Altmaier said he read the story, and he’s heard other stories of people struggling with their insurance companies.
“We’ve read some pretty discouraging stories about individuals, and we certainly feel terrible that they’re going through that situation,” he said. “We do the best we can to get them the resources that they have available to them.”
But so far, he said, the industry has been responsive to the storm, and he said he hasn’t seen any trends in the data to indicate companies have been operating improperly.
“Overall, I’m generally pleased,” he said. “Every time we have reached out to the insurance industry to ask them about some of these individuals that are in situations that they don’t appreciate, they’ve been very responsive to us. We have seen evidence that they’re doing what they can to close those claims.”
There are a variety of reasons why some of the claims are still open, Altmaier said.
Some are uncontested, he said, but the “large majority” are not. He said many are new claims from people who are just discovering damage, or are just finding out that damage their home or business suffered is covered by insurance.
“If a claim was uncontested, and it was filed after the landfall of Hurricane Michael, and was still open today, that would be an issue,” Altmaier said.
But Altmaier acknowledged he didn’t have the data to back it up. The letter his office sent Thursday said it would be collecting additional data to look for reasons why payments haven’t been made.
“We’re going to look very unfavorably on insurance companies that aren’t doing the best that they can to get these closed,” he said.