From left to right, JL Evans, Donice Krueger, Chip Merlin, Ron Delo, James and Rene Howard

Hurricane Michael insurance claims continue to take up a lot of time with Merlin Law Group attorneys. The photograph above is from dinner last night in Panama City, Florida, where the issues and problems of getting insurance claims resolved fully were the hot topic of discussion. Hurricane Michael has a lot of slow and low paying claims where insurers are wrongfully reporting to the Office of Insurance Regulation that the claim is administratively “closed” when it is anything other than being over from the policyholder’s view.

The above photograph includes Florida veteran public adjuster Ron Delo whom I first met at the Florida Department of Insurance in the early 1990’s. Ron Delo told me he has never seen such slow claims payments following a disaster. Policyholders and public adjusters need to complain to those regulating the insurance adjusters and companies. Insurance company customers deserve full and prompt payment. Hurricane Michael claims lasting since a hurricane last Fall are not being paid promptly.

Based on hundreds of discussions with public adjusters, contractors and policyholders, I would suggest the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation should be asking for complaints from policyholders about claims not being fully paid. They should then be doing something about the widespread slow payment problems.

Since regulators are paid to regulate, I urge anybody suffering from slow payment to file a complaint and give those regulators we pay to do some good work for those they are supposed to serve. A Hurricane Michael slow or low paying insurance claim can be complained about by following this information from the Office of Insurance Regulation:

Do you need to file an insurance complaint? The Division of Consumer Services is happy to assist you with your insurance questions and concerns or open a formal complaint. Our dedicated and experienced helpline specialists are continuously trained and informed about any changes that occur to the 26 different categories of insurance they confront on a daily basis. We are ready to contact the insurance company on your behalf to assist you with your insurance complaint. Below are three easy ways to submit your complaint.

FILE AN INSURANCE COMPLAINT ONLINE

You can submit a complaint on insurance products, including bonds, warranties and annuities, online by visiting our Online Insurance Assistance homepage. The request is assigned to an insurance specialist to provide necessary assistance.

FILE AN INSURANCE COMPLAINT BY TELEPHONE

You can contact a specialist directly by telephone on weekdays between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST at the statewide, toll-free number 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236). If you are calling from Out of State please dial (850) 413-3089.

FILE AN INSURANCE COMPLAINT BY EMAIL

You can also submit a complaint on insurance products, including bonds, warranties and annuities by emailing the Division at: Consumer.Services@myfloridacfo.com.

Please have the following information ready:

• Policy information – Company, Policy Number or Claim Number

• Your contact information – Address, Telephone Number (Home, Cell or Work).

• Description of the problem or issue

NOTE: Insurance companies, by statute, have 20 days to respond to the Department once a complaint has been filed. Usually the response time is much quicker and we strive to successfully close a file within 30 days.

Please be advised the information provided to the Department of Financial Services becomes a public record and is subject to a public record request. Before the documents leave the Department, personal information (such as social security numbers, policy numbers, and health and financial information) is removed.

To really give teeth to a valid complaint about slow Hurricane Michael payments, a Civil Remedy Notice of Insurer Violation should be filed as well. This Notice gives valuable legal financial rights to the policyholder and is usually much stronger than a simple regulatory complaint. Attorneys should file a Civil Remedy Notice for Policyholders because they are legal documents. This is what the Division of Consumer Services says about Civil Remedy Notices:

The Civil Remedy Notice is intended for use by parties who are beginning the process of filing suit against an insurer, when a party feels they have been damaged by specific acts of the insurer. The Notice is intended to meet a portion of legal requirements set forth in Section 624.155, Florida Statutes, which requires a party to file Notice with both the insurer and the Department of Financial Services (DFS) at least 60 days prior to bringing an action against the insurer. The DFS does not involve itself in the pre-suit negotiations or communications related to Notices as such actions are not within the scope of its statutory authority.

If you need further information about filing a Florida Civil Remedy notice, please do not hesitate to call us for a free consultation at our Panama City Office 850-290-5940 or 813-229-1000.

Thought For The Day

I hate to be a kicker, I always long for peace, But the wheel that does the squeaking, is the one that gets the grease.
—Josh Billings

  • Bruce Holmes

    Some of the proposed payments and denials are laughable. How can you have a house built in 1910 that was subjected 100+ mph wind gusts that an engineer from Louisiana found no damage to the structure other than where a tree fell. The house leaks like a sieve. Big problems in the panhandle.

  • Bruce Holmes
    • Chip Merlin

      Bruce,

      Just because there are slow payments does not mean that regulators are not trying.
      It is hard to put objective grades on how well Jimmy Patronis is doing,
      but at least he has an Insurance Village scheduled.

      Still, the information about what is a closed claim is very misleading because the
      carriers report a claim as closed knowing that it is anything but closed.
      “Fully closed with no future payments ever expected” is a statistic which
      the regulators should collect and then audit for accuracy. It would show
      the time of final settlement.
      Thanks for this information because I was not aware of it.

      • Bruce Holmes

        It just seems that since this area is not a more visible tourist destination, the folks up there are getting the short shrift. Some heads should be on the block for not having federal flood insurance in place for Mexico Beach and adjacent areas.