Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10, 2018, destroying the homes of thousands of Floridians. Well over a year later, there are still thousands of home and business owners who are still waiting for their insurance companies to approve their claims.
Hurricane Michael caused over $7.2 billion in insured losses throughout the Florida Panhandle, and around 150,000 insurance claims were filed following the storm. The average claim costs from Hurricane Michael is $44,831, four times more than the average claim cost for Hurricane Irma, which had over one million claims overall. There are currently 15,893 people with open insurance claims from Hurricane Michael and over 20,000 more whose claims were closed without receiving anything from their insurance companies.
The insurance companies the property owners have been paying thousands of dollars to over the course of years, have failed them. Instead of giving them the money they need to fix their homes and move on with their lives, the insurance companies have caused delays in payments, underpaid, or flat out denied legitimate claims; sometimes disregarding Florida’s laws and even acting in bad faith.
In some cases, insurance companies have sent multiple independent adjusters to assess the damages, even those who were left with only a concrete slab are still having their damage assessed by their insurance companies.
Florida law states that insurance claims must be paid within 90 days of the claim being made, the insurance company settling on the amount that is owed, and the policyholder agrees to the amount. This is a loophole that many say seems to be exploited by insurance companies, since they can still take months to determine how much they are willing to pay. The 90-day clock does not start until the policyholder has accepted the insurance company’s offer. So, if the insurance company is offering you a lower estimate than you should be receiving, and you decline it, the clock does not start. Some insurance companies have marked their findings as “trade secrets,” which makes it unclear why the insurance companies have so many claims still sitting open after all this time.
The goal of some of these insurance companies seems to be to offer less than they should, after dragging things on for months, in the hopes that the policyholder will just be happy to take whatever they can get and move on; unfortunately, this is often the case. After a storm, people want to move on with their lives, and having their insurance company drag them through the mud for months makes them more willing to just take anything so they could move on.
There have been several proposals for new legislation to speed up the claims process after a storm, along with bills to protect property owners and prevent insurance companies from paying claims. It is the hope that lawmakers will pass some new regulations to hold insurance companies who have failed their consumers accountable for holding up claims for months, trying to offer less than they should or nothing at all, and acting in bad faith.