This week, two more insurance forums were held by the Department of Financial Services’ Robin Westcott and Tasha Carter. ABC Action News filmed the Tampa meeting, and the Jacksonville meeting got the attention of two Florida policyholders who traveled more than one hundred and sixty miles to share the story of their on going claim nightmare.

One of the discussion points during the Tampa meeting focused on consumer complaints and civil remedy notices (CRN’s) to advise the Department of Insurance of improperly handled claims.

I have previously posted about the difficulty of using the website to file consumer complaints. Ms. Carter recognized the need to make this form readily accessible to insureds and advised the website would be undergoing a revamp soon. The complaint link is improperly titled "insurance product;" it should be called " insurance complaint."

I encourage public adjusters and insureds to file complaints together when a claim goes wrong. The Division of Consumer Services states it will inquire into the claim and require the carrier respond to the Department within a short time frame.

Civil Remedy Notices can also be filed by an insured, but they are much more effective when filed by an attorney who handles property insurance disputes. Public adjusters should not file civil remedy notices.

The CRN, also a public record, details all the statutory claims handling violations committed by a carrier for a specific claim. This notice is accepted by the Department so long as the online form meets the basic requirements. The Department ensures the named insurance carrier receives a copy of the CRN, but no one at the Department is appointed to review these violation letters. The carrier has 60 days to respond and cure the problems listed in the notice. Any insured shopping for insurance or looking to see if their claim problems are an on going trend can view the civil notices categorized by company here. There is no overall compilation of both consumer complaints and civil remedy notices. The Department does give stats on the consumer complaints.

To get an understanding of insurance company’ claims handling practices, policyholders should be able to see the full picture of how claims are handled by viewing consumer complaints and civil remedy notices. Both Ms. Westcott and Ms. Carter appreciated this suggestion at the recent meeting and now they will head back to Tallahassee, hopefully, to implement changes; the next meeting for policyholders to air concerns will be April 23, 2013, at 6:30 pm, in Pensacola.

If you are looking for information about Citizens, a Google search may give you a better glimpse into what is going on at the mess that is the state backed insurer. Civil remedy notices can be filed against Citizens, but because of its immunity to bad faith actions, the filed documents do not reflect how poorly claims are handled. Policyholders with stagnant or improperly handled Citizens claims should attend the insurance forums. Miami, West Palm, Fort Myers, and Fort Lauderdale meetings are coming soon. For questions regarding consumer complaints or civil remedy notices, comment below.