Florida’s Property Insurance Policyholder – Still in Crisis

Florida’s Property Insurance Policyholder – Still in Crisis

With yet another Special Session beginning this week and a new legislative session beginning in March, Florida Legislators will soon be faced with some unexpected consequences, from new changes to the state’s insurance laws, that were passed by the Florida Legislature in May and December along with other pro-insurance reforms. There’s also, more work that needs to be done.

I expect more Floridians to go without insurance and self-insure to avoid soaring rates. Stories worsen about Ian victims living in tents amidst deplorable water shortages, toxic mold, rats, and mounds of trash while pleas for help have fallen on deaf ears at the Governor’s office who responded, “we will look into it.”  As a Public Insurance Adjuster and former President of the Windstorm Insurance Network, who has represented policyholders for 18 years, one of the things I always say is surviving the storm is the easy part, surviving the insurance claim process is the hardest part.  This was echoed in a February 1, 2023 article published in The Washington Post:  For some, life after Ian is ‘more tragic than the hurricane itself’.

Florida certainly has a host of public servants championing Florida’s insurance companies. The myopic focus of the last legislative session was to do whatever it takes to “hopefully” bring down rates and prop up insurers. Historically, disasters are big business for insurers because it gives them the cover to raise rates. There’s also a $1 billion (bailout) fund to assist struggling insurers, and most recently new restrictions on policyholders’ ability to sue when insurance companies deny legitimate claims. Earlier, on May 26, 2022, SB 4-D took effect, which eliminated the 25% Roof Replacement Rule in certain situations - just 6 days before the start of the June 1, 2022 Hurricane Season.

But who is championing Florida’s policyholders, seeking a fair settlement for their property damages and suffering the consequences of these pro-insurance laws? They have totally been forgotten in this equation.  

I acknowledge the improvements in catastrophe modeling in the 30 years since Hurricane Andrew’s landfall, and the development of innovative insurance solutions to provide coverage that is more comprehensive to insurance buyers. Lessons learned with hardened building codes has also set us on a positive path. However, I think the regulatory/legal framework needs work. Some are holding up technological innovations as part of the solution. I still find savvy business people desire to consult with credentialed agents, brokers, risk managers, engineers, attorneys and adjusters rather than some tech company with no credentials other than selling a cheaper product from outside countries. Most importantly, digitizing the claims process has proven to be the worst experience told by every Hurricane Ian victim calling us about their wrongfully denied claims.  It is something our clients deal with every single day and a story worth telling.

One thing we all agree on is that something must be done. If Legislators really have the desire to find ways to fix our “insurance crisis they need to invest in training and empowering all the players in the claims process to do their jobs on behalf of the Policyholder.  I believe that to be the ultimate solution that will stabilize the marketplace. If not, homeowners will remain marginalized, keep suffering frustrating claims processes, and continue paying higher prices for less coverage!  What a bargain!

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