Panelists and even the audience dispute Florida Insurance Council and Florida Office of Insurance Regulation statistics indicating that a large percentage of claims from the four hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004 have been settled.
In his welcoming address Charles R. “Dick” Tutwiler, Windstorm Insurance Network president said that 750 conferees, twice the number of participants as last year, registered for the Feb. 1-5 Wind Conference 2005 in Tampa, Fla.
Last year will be remembered as the year of “Four in ’04,” Bill Bailey, moderator of a panel discussing “What We Learned from the 2004 Hurricanes.” Bailey, Insurance Information Institute special counsel, read detailed statistics on damages and claims for all four hurricane indicating that there were 1.5 million claims totaling $21.5 billion.
Bailey polled the panelists and hundreds of participants asking, “How many of you believe the statistics about how many claims have been settled?” Of all the audience in the packed ballroom, only one person raised his hand to agree with the statistics.
“In my own department we handle a very small percentage of these claims you are talking about, but it has not been our experience that these claims have been settled,” Tutwiler said. “I can tell you that every firm I have been in and adjusters I have talked to have the same story, that claims are not settled.
“I don’t know if it is a problem with description of whether a claim has been settled or closed, but I don’t see anywhere near 80 percent or 87 percent of the claims have been settled.”
Tutwiler said insurance companies depreciate the value of the home before paying the claim and even after the homeowner receives payment it takes a long time before repairs are made.
“Those figures depend on the definition of settled, my guess is that the definition includes properties in which some payment has been issued,” explained Janet Brown, WIN past president, with Boehm, Brown, Fischer, Harwood, Kelly & Scheihing of Orlando. “This would not require an entire payment.”
She said a lot of claims come into her office in which the property owner has received some money but does not believe they have been fully compensated.
Tutwiler said that something was very strange because very little construction has begun due to a shortage of contractors and materials, engineers have not finished reports on damaged buildings and few repairs have been made.
More than 8,000 to 9,000 new claims being filed per week, according to Tim Marshall of Haag Engineering in Tampa. He said his company is receiving lots of assignments and he expects repair work to keep coming in for the next year.
The panelists assumed that statistics reflect the fact that a homeowner might have accepted an initial payment to start basic repairs, but that a real settlement won’t occur until after an estimate is received from a contractor and the final claim is presented to the insurance company. In most cases engineers and contractors are unavailable to give estimates, so it will be a long time until the claims are really settled.
The conference continues through Friday with a review of the 2004 hurricane season presented tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. by Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. At 9 a.m. Bailey will talk about “America’s Hurricane Alley: The Impact of the Big Four in ’04.” A complete schedule of conference events is available at www.windnetwork.com.
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