Wonder what the real cause is behind the “insurance crisis” in Florida? Insurance companies not paying claims could be the primary reason. A recent article out of the Washington Post shows insurance companies with Hurricane Ian claims have been taking damages estimates prepared by their field adjusters and slashing them deeply, sometimes without the field adjuster even knowing, and sometimes while even keeping the adjuster's name on the final report and estimate. As experienced insurance attorneys who have been helping homeowners with their hurricane claims for decades, we have seen these tactics time and again. However, it is not often the public—policyholders just like you—get to hear from actual field adjusters who decided to take a stand and expose these insurance companies for their unfair practices.
Field Adjuster Jordan Lee
Adjuster Lee was brought in by Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company (“Heritage”) to inspect and estimate significant damage Hurricane Ian caused to a home in Rotonda West, FL. The home had suffered water damage throughout the interior after the roof was severely damaged by the 150 mph winds during Hurricane Ian. Lee determined the entire home needed to be dehumidified, the roof replaced, and the insulation throughout torn out and replaced. He estimated the cost of these repairs to be around $200,000. When Lee saw what Heritage had done to the $200,000 estimate he had submitted, his stomach dropped.
Heritage Slashed Lee's $200,000 Estimate Down to $27,000
Lee was shocked to find Heritage had removed numerous, significant portions of his estimate in their entirety, bringing his $200,000 estimate down to around $27,000, a mere 13% of the actual claim value. This reduction was done without Lee's consent or input, yet he found Heritage had kept his name on the final report and slashed estimate. Other adjusters that the Washington Post reached out to reported similar conduct by Hurricane Ian insurers, i.e., lowering their damage estimates without the adjusters' consent, rewriting descriptions of damage, even deleting the adjusters' damage photos. Within weeks of Lee's agreement to begin writing Hurricane Ian estimates for Heritage, he received updated guidelines from Heritage essentially barring him from writing any roof replacements regardless of the damage the roof sustained during Hurricane Ian.
How This Conduct Has Contributed to the Insurance Crisis
The Post pulled data from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and found of the 708,255 Hurricane Ian insurance claims that were filed, about 34% of them were rejected or remain unpaid. While an astonishing 125,000 claims were closed without any payment, 33,000 claims remain open without payment and another 56,000 remain open with only some payment made on the claim. The Post's review of a dozen policyholders' claim documents revealed their Hurricane Ian claims had been reduced by 45% to 97%. This is occurring even though the 90-day period that insurance companies have to pay or deny a claim ended in late December 2022.
“These actions to devalue damage are the latest example of the insurance crisis in Florida.”
— Washington Post
This leaves already devastated homeowners struggling to foot the bill for repairs and “exposing an untenable gap between the cost of storm damage and what insurers are willing to pay to fix it” the article explained. With the recent removal of attorney's fees from Fla. Stat. § 627.428, homeowners have been left stranded in their damaged homes, with no meaningful recourse to take in the face of such intentional, wrongful adjustment of their claims by their insurance companies.
Have You Been Treated Unfairly By Your Hurricane Ian Insurer?
While this news is disheartening, unfortunately it is not surprising in our line of work. At Taylor, Warren, Weidner & Hancock, we have been helping homeowners fight back against insurance companies that try to undervalue and underpay claims as far back as Hurricane Opal in 1995 as well as the more recent Hurricane Michael in 2018, Hurricane Sally in 2020, and Hurricane Ian in 2022. At TWWH, our attorneys know insurance companies will go to great lengths to reduce claim values and minimize claims, even greater lengths in a volatile, poorly backed insurance market facing a costly storm like Hurricane Ian. But, articles like this only fuel our attorneys to continue the fight. If you feel your insurance company has undervalued your Hurricane Ian claim or has not paid the entirety of the amount you are owed, contact us for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. We're here to help, answer your questions, and fight for you.