Last week, Julie Patel, of the Sun-Sentinel, continued her investigative reporting into insurance adjuster complaints in Florida. In the article, State seldom cracks down on insurance companies and their adjusters, Patel gives readers an inside look on the discrepancies between complaints against insurance companies and their adjusters and complaints against public insurance adjusters. The complaints discussed in the article were filed online with the Florida Department of Financial Services, which investigates the complaints.

The numbers from Patel’s article:

There are 47,040 adjusters on staff at Florida insurance companies, including those based outside the state; 29,022 independent insurance adjusters who can be hired by insurers to work on claims; and 2,602 public insurance adjusters, who are hired by policyholders.

The state received 246 complaints about public adjusters since February 2010 — compared to 69 against insurers’ adjusters, according to the state’s Department of Financial Services, which handles and looks into the complaints. Another state agency, the Office of Insurance Regulation, regulates and investigates insurance companies.

Patel points out that complaints against insurance company adjusters may not be a fair comparison because consumers may have filed complaints against their insurance companies instead of the individual insurance company adjuster.

The state received 27,138 claims-related complaints against insurers since 2008, … A spokesman for the insurance regulation office could not say how many were investigated.

Patel has crunched the numbers and determined that “when Floridians complain that an insurance company’s claims adjuster is mishandling, lowballing or delaying claims, there’s a less than 16 percent chance the adjuster will be disciplined.”

Another issue to consider is whether the complaint forms that have been filed by Floridians accurately reflect the number of insureds who have valid claim problems.

The complaints reviewed in the article were filed by consumers on the Department of Financial Services webpage. But finding and filing a complaint against an insurance carrier or adjuster takes some determination. The homepage of the Department’s webcite does not provide any information about how to find or file a complaint.

On the Florida Department of Financial Services home page, there are two links geared towards consumers. Under what the department calls “Services,” one can elect to review Citizen Resources or Consumer Protection pages. But neither of these pages leads to the complaint form. It takes nore time and effort to stumble upon the right links.

This is how to find the complaint form.

Starting on the DFS home page, click on the Consumer Protection link. Once on that page, look for the link to Consumer Assistance. Once on the Consumer Assistance page, click the Consumer Help Online link, and the page will change. On the left side, there is a large graphic that says CONSUMER HELP ONLINE. On the right side, the page promises, “The Division of Consumer Services is ready to assist you with your insurance concerns.”

Under this section, there is another link to REQUEST INSURANCE ASSISTANCE.

Finally, the complaint form is found after clicking on the, “Request Insurance Assistance” link.

It seems strange that the complaint form is not called “Complaint Form” or given a title that would indicate it is the document consumers need to file a complaint against their insurance company and request help.

The phrase “REQUEST INSURANCE ASSISTANCE” could be interpreted by some as a resource for finding or buying insurance, or understanding the different kinds of insurance. When policyholders have a claim in Florida and they are looking for help with their insurance company, they already have insurance. What they need claim assistance.

If the department wants to help policyholders it could make the form easily available and name the form – COMPLAINT FORM.

And perhaps, if the Department made the form available on the home page or had a link to it on the homepage, more information would available to accurately show the number of Floridians who feel their insurance claim is not being handled properly.