Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas – An unprecedented storm, logistical nightmare, and the long road to recovery
Thank you to Public Adjuster Mike Stabile for contributing this update on Hurricane Dorian recovery. It’s been over 3 months since Hurricane Dorian made its unprecedented and devastating landfall in the Bahamas catastrophically damaging Great Abaco, its barrier islands and Grand Bahama. The reports from our Public Insurance Adjusters who have visited the area multiple times is that damage recovery is challenged and moving slowly. Property damage aside, many have lost their lives. In speaking with the residents, the current “official death toll” is nowhere near what they believe the actual number will be, which could be in the thousands. Our thoughts are with the families still searching for their loved ones.
As many assess the damage caused to their homes and businesses, if they can even get to them, they have quickly realized that the task is daunting to near impossible, and logistically it is incredibly expensive. Especially given the fact that almost all claims will require numerous site inspections for the duration of the claim. Many homeowners who are from out of the country are realizing that they, or their staff are not equipped to deal with this effort and the enormous amount of documentation that goes along with it, and they have begun reaching out to our firm in search of assistance. These folks are beginning to understand that “going it on their own” and allowing their insurance company, and their hired adjusters who work for them, the opportunity to assert their "position" of their loss and damage claim, often creates more difficulty and claim delay. Most policyholders are not equipped to understand the intricacies of their policy coverages, endorsements, exclusions, or the estimates that their insurance companies are preparing. It’s a full-time job that many policyholders don’t have the time and expertise to effectively take on.
Many factors will come into play such as Co-Insurance, which is essentially a financial penalty the insurance company will apply to insureds losses for not having enough insurance to cover the value of the property. This may also be referenced in the Policy as the "Average Clause." This is a very BIG issue that we are seeing in the Bahamas. Further, we are seeing where most insurance companies are applying a ridiculous depreciation calculation where they take off 40-50% for depreciation when arguably they should only be taking 5-10% if the property was well maintained. Another very BIG issue. Moreover, the repair cost estimating software programs that some insurance companies use absolutely do not reflect the local market price to replace damaged building items nor does it factor in market price for labor of workers. The supply and demand of this work will be significant as many owners have already found out.
Hiring a licensed Public Insurance Adjuster who has extensive training on the intricacies of insurance claims and who exclusively represents the policyholder, is a solution many are opting for. However, buyer beware! The Insurance Commission of The Bahamas instituted very stringent regulatory changes following Hurricane Matthew that impacted the Bahama islands in 2016. The reason why the changes are so monumental and important regarding Hurricane Dorian is because they apply to ALL property insurance claim adjusters. This includes staff adjusters who work directly for Insurance Companies, Independent adjusters who are appointed by Insurance Companies, loss consultants who are retained by Insurance Companies and of course Public Insurance Adjusters who have clients seeking to engage our professional service. Should any claims adjuster or carrier representative attempt entry without proper documentation, they are immediately sent back to wherever they came from. The Insurance Commission Of The Bahamas is strictly enforcing this. They are imposing fines on companies and there is also regulatory verbiage with reference of imprisonment.
Due to these stringent regulations, it is of utmost importance that you ensure that any Public Insurance Adjuster you are considering hiring can furnish you with the documents required by The Insurance Commission of The Bahamas and The Department of Immigration. Their documents must include 1) A Letter of NO Objection from the Insurance Commission of the Bahamas and 2) A Work Permit from Bahamas Immigration. Your insurance company’s hired adjusters are also required to carry these documents. So make sure that any adjuster or insurance company representative is able to furnish these documents as well. The last thing you want is to get someone deeply involved in your claim, only to later find out that they weren’t properly credentialed, have been fined, revoked from working, or even worse jailed. Your claim will essentially revert back to square one. Tutwiler & Associates secured these credentials and licensing, soon after the storm.
It is also important to ensure that your Public Insurance Adjuster has a base of operations in the Bahamas and will be available for the long haul. Our firm now has a safe; established place to operate, and a plane and a pilot who has been flying folks to Abaco for over 30 years who is able to take us into select areas. He knows everyone at all the airports, which is extremely helpful. We have also assembled a team of Building Consultants/Estimators and Public Adjusters who coordinate to service our client base.
Our estimate is that the road to recovery will be longer than usual. As such, it is important to position yourself to effectively recover the maximum claim settlement possible, as well as protect your interests and assets so you will ultimately have the funds required to restore your property. If you own damaged property in the Bahamas and are interested in how the process will likely unfold, contact us for a free review of your Insurance Policy.