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Florida CFO blames public adjusters, lawyers for Hurricane Michael insurance claim delays

His comments echo the talking points of insurance companies, which have blamed public adjusters for claim delays.
Jimmy Patronis Jr., Chief Financial Officer of the state of Florida, meets with residents of Mexico Beach during a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Mexico Beach on Thursday, September 26, 2019. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Jimmy Patronis Jr., Chief Financial Officer of the state of Florida, meets with residents of Mexico Beach during a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Mexico Beach on Thursday, September 26, 2019. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 29, 2019
Updated Oct. 29, 2019

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis blamed public adjusters and lawyers for Hurricane Michael claim delays, proposing a law giving Floridians more time to break their contracts with adjusters.

But while he acknowledged that insurance companies shoulder some of the blame for dragging out claims, he did not announce any proposals to hold insurance companies accountable.

Public adjusters are licensed by the state and can be hired to represent policyholders during an insurance claim.

“I’ve seen PAs that sign people, and then they sit back there on Facebook all day long, because they know that they have got an airtight contract, and they will leave you twisting in the wind,” Patronis said Tuesday.

He said state law should be amended so policyholders can back out of a contract with an adjuster within 30 days of a state emergency, instead of three days currently.

RELATED STORY: Hurricane Michael: Insurance companies have been ‘terribly unhelpful,’ former Florida House speaker says

“That’s a huge step forward in empowering Floridians to take charge of their insurance claims,” Patronis said.

Patronis echoed talking points made by the insurance industry, which has blamed public adjusters for carriers’ struggle to quickly pay claims following the category 5 Hurricane Michael.

Nearly 12 percent of claims were still open as of last month, nearly a year after the storm made landfall. That’s far worse than 2017′s Hurricane Irma, which saw only 9 percent of claims were open nine months after the storm.

But neither the insurance industry nor Patronis has presented data supporting the claim, while Panhandle residents and his own Insurance Consumer Advocate have laid the fault with insurance companies.

“Insurance consumers are very frustrated with their insurance companies,” Insurance Consumer Advocate Tasha Carter told lawmakers this month. “They’re frustrated that their claims have not been closed and that they have not been handled appropriately.”

RELATED STORY: Florida officials vow pro-consumer relief on Hurricane Michael claims

When Patronis this month asked on his Facebook page what people needed to recover from the storm, two dozen people asked to hold insurance companies accountable. Of the more than 100 comments, no one complained about public adjusters.

Patronis on Tuesday acknowledged that insurance companies have been slow to pay claims, citing the example of someone who had to wait 10 months to get a claim paid at its full policy limit.

“Why does it take 10 months to get a full policy limit check cut?” he said. “You’d think that is something that could be cut in the first two weeks.”

But he implied that lawyers, public adjusters and unscrupulous contractors shared an equal amount of the blame.

“Challenges by the insurance carriers, challenges of the PAs, challenges of attorneys, unscrupulous contractors, all those factored into it,” Patronis said. “I want to hold everybody accountable, but as I have seen, the public adjusters take advantage.”

He said he would “love” to have data showing that public adjusters are to blame, but it doesn’t exist. The Office of Insurance Regulation, which has asked insurance companies for additional data to learn why the claims have taken so long to be paid, did not ask insurance companies for data on public adjusters.

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