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Heritage Slapped with $1M State Fine for Improper Handling of Ian Claims

Posted by Phillip Warren | May 15, 2024 | 0 Comments

Sending unlicensed adjusters out to inspect, resulting in lowball estimates.  Failing to timely acknowledge and respond to communications from policyholders.  Failing to pay claims within 90 days as required by law.  These are just a few of the violations for which the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (FOIR) cited Heritage Property & Casualty Ins. Co. (Heritage) in its examination report completed in March.  As a result of these violations, FOIR slapped Heritage with a $1M penalty for failing to properly handle hundreds of Hurricane Ian claims. 

Heritage Entered Into a Consent Order Agreeing to the Violations

Heritage did not dispute FOIR's findings.  Rather, it entered into a Consent Order outlining the violations and agreed to pay the $1M, plus an additional $10,000 in administrative costs, according to the Consent Order entered into by FOIR and Heritage on May 9, 2024. 

Read the Consent Order.

Additional Heritage Violations

FOIR's extensive examination and decision to levy such a steep fine shows FOIR's new commissioner, Mike Yaworsky, is serious about putting insurance companies under a microscope in light of the numerous complaints received from consumers over unpaid claims, claim delay, and rapidly rising premiums.  In addition to the violations identified above, FOIR also cited Heritage for the failing to:

-       Ensure adjusters provided their license information to policyholders;

-       Include the name of the adjuster in communications sent to policyholders;

-       Accurately calculate interest owed to policyholders on claims where payment was made;

-       Initiate voice contact with the policyholder within one business day as required by Heritage's own claims-handling manual; and

-       Maintain complete claim records. 

Heritage's CEO told the Tampa Bay Times that the company was aware of the issues and has taken action. Measures include the creation of a new compliance director position and utilizing new claims management software. 

The fine levied against Heritage was reported to be one of the largest in state insurance regulation history and appears to be a response to accusations from several lawmakers claiming the FOIR, under the previous commissioner, had missed signs that a number of insurance companies were being mismanaged and executives had been running the companies into financial ruin.  The March examination report also seems to back up charges made in recent lawsuits filed against Heritage claiming it had used unlicensed adjusters on some 4,800 Hurricane Irma claims back in 2017. 

Is Your Claim Being Improperly Handled in Bad Faith?

Unfortunately, this only validates the egregious bad faith claims handling practices many of us became familiar with after Hurricanes Irma, Michael, Sally, and now Ian.  Insurance companies often fail to timely communicate, accurately adjust the loss, and pay the claim fairly.  We are grateful for the FOIR's increased oversight and desire to hold insurance companies, like Heritage, accountable for these unacceptable bad faith practices that leave policyholders stressed, angry, and often living in shambles, temporary housing, or a construction site until they can get the full amount to which they are entitled for their damage.  That is why we represent policyholders only, never insurance companies, helping them recover for the breach of contract as well as pursing the insurance company for their bad faith handling of the claim.  If you feel your insurance company has taken some of these tactics with you—failing to communicate, accurately estimate the value of your claim, or timely pay you in full—never hesitate to contact us for a no-cost, no-obligation insurance claim review.  Our experienced insurance attorneys are here to help you and answer your questions.  

About the Author

Phillip Warren

Phillip devotes the same honor, courage, and commitment to his clients as he did in the USMC.

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