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Consumers displaced, living in tents while 143,396 of Ian insurance claims still ‘open and pending’

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Consumers displaced, living in tents while 143,396 of Ian insurance claims still ‘open and pending’

Apr 06, 2023 | 2:31 pm ET
By Diane Rado
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Consumers displaced, living in tents while 143,396 of Ian insurance claims still ‘open and pending’
Description
Boats sit grounded in a woodland area and along the side of the road after being pushed by rising water from Hurricane Ian near Fort Myers Beach on Sept. 29, 2022, in San Carlos Island. The hurricane brought high winds, storm surge and rain to the area causing severe damage. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

More than six months after Hurricane Ian slammed Southwest Florida, crippling or destroying homes, thousands of residents trying to make repairs have been delayed by extreme insurance-claim problems.

In fact, of 708,255 Ian claims reported to insurance companies, 143,396, or 20.2%, remain ‘open and pending,’ based on the latest estimates from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

And prolonged delays — Ian’s monstrous storm goes back to Sept. 28, 2022 — have raised concerns and complaints by consumers.

Consumers displaced, living in tents while 143,396 of Ian insurance claims still ‘open and pending’
Tasha Carter, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate (ICA). Credit, ICA.

“Many consumers are displaced, living in tents on their property or living in a substantially damaged home. They cannot begin the repair process and initiate the road to recovery without the insurance benefits they are entitled to,” according to a press release from Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate (ICA) Tasha Carter.

“It is my duty and charge to ensure Florida’s insurance consumers receive the benefits they’re entitled to under their insurance contract,” Carter wrote in the release. “They’re not asking for a handout or special privileges. Consumers want to repair their homes and recover as quickly as possible.”

Carter sent certain letters to property and casualty insurance companies this week, outlining the “dire consumer concerns” regarding the handling of Hurricane Ian claims.

Those include “extreme delays” after filing a claim more than 6 months ago. In addition, “consumers have been assigned multiple adjusters, required to submit claim documentation multiple times, received unsatisfactory settlement offers, experienced prolonged delays, lack of communication and other challenges,” according to the release.

To improve the claims process, Carter “requested the appointment of a designated liaison within each company to specifically address Hurricane Ian complaints and claim inquiries received from the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate.”

Also this week, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis issued a directive stating that a consumer advocate, meaning Carter in this case, will be appointed and serve as the Hurricane Ian Chief Recovery Director.

The complaints and delays on Ian insurance claims come at a time when former President Donald Trump has been lambasting Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is considering a presidential run for 2024 — on a variety of topics. (It’s likely that Trump, a presidential candidate, will continue the attacks even as he has pleaded not guilty to 34 New York state felony offenses related to alleged hush money payments to an adult film star.)

On insurance, DeSantis and Trump, Gary Fineout writes in POLITICO:

“Florida lawmakers want to bring the ‘hammer’ down on ‘bad actors’ in the property insurance industry, and they are moving quickly to send a new legislative proposal to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“The push comes just three weeks after former President Donald Trump accused DeSantis of bailing out the politically-powerful industry and said the governor had ‘crushed homeowners’ following Hurricane Ian …

“Trump — who’s been swiping at DeSantis as the Republican considers a presidential run — ripped into the governor last month over the issues, saying in a social media post that ‘RINO Ron DeSanctimonious is delivering the biggest insurance BAILOUT to Globalist Insurance Companies, in HISTORY.’

“‘He’s also crushed homeowners whose houses were destroyed in the Hurricane,’ Trump wrote. ‘They’re getting pennies on the dollar. … This is the worst insurance scam in the entire COUNTRY!,'” Fineout writes.

Meanwhile, consumers should continue to submit complaints through the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services online complaint portal @ https://apps.fldfs.com/ESERVICE/Default.aspx.