Policyholders Line Up to File Claims at Miss. Agency; Fla. Associations Offer Aid, Assistance to Kartina’s Victims

August 31, 2005

Insurance adjusters are scrambling around South Florida, where before crossing into the Gulf of Mexico and becoming a catastrophic hurricane, Katrina slapped Dade and Broward counties with damages experts estimate from $600 million to $2 billion, depending on who you ask. One estimate by Risk Management Solutions of Newark, Calif. estimates Florida’s damages at $2 billion.

As of this morning, Mississippi has 110 confirmed dead and the number is climbing. New Orleans can’t even begin to guess at the number of deaths, amount of destruction, or long-term impact.

Richard W. Davis of Terral Insurance LLC told Insurance Journal that his office in Quitman, Miss. was heavily damaged. The parking garage roof at the rear of his building, blew on top of the building and created unsafe working conditions.

“We are operating with two phones lines and four others are out,” Davis explained. “These are not easy working conditions, however we do have power and have people lined up outside our building and backed up on Main Street waiting to file their claims.”

Davis said that most of the homes Quitman and Clarke County have some damage, some minor and some major.

“We have it minor compared to our friends to the south,” Davis said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them today and for weeks and months to come.”

FAIA standing by

“At this point, we are standing by,” Jeff Grady, president and CEO of the Florida Independent Agents Association told Insurance Journal. “We have sent financial aid to our sister associations in Louisiana and Mississippi and offered our assistance in supplies, manpower and additional monies.

“Their response is that the damage is still too overwhelming to know exactly what they need,” he said. “They have indicated they will let us know when they have a better handle on the situation.

“In the meantime, many of our members are lining up to help and have pledged just about anything their fellow agents and citizens might need assistance with. We are keeping them at bay right now until we know more.”

FAIA contacted agents’ associations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and has sent two checks of $5,000 each to Louisiana and Mississippi.

Vic McCarley, executive vice president of the Alabama Independent Insurance Agents, expressed his appreciation, but said for now they had the resources to handle the problems there.

Florida, in the meantime, has its own, albeit less severe, problems.

“Florida had perhaps $2 billion damage and 11 deaths from Katrina,” Jennifer Pitts, FAIA staff liaison for the Catastrophe Council, said. “Our staff contacted agents from Escambia County to Panama City to determine their needs.

“Most reported power outages and a little flooding, but were working their catastrophe plans and did not need assistance,” she said.
Pitts advised anyone needing assistance, whether in the Panhandle or in Southeast Florida, to call (850) 893-4155 ext. 328, or email jpitts@faia.com.

FAIA said Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state’s insurer of last resort received a record number of calls yesterday, but its staff was ready for them.

Unfortunately, Sprint may not have been. All of Sprint’s toll-free service was out throughout the entire Panhandle, courtesy of Katrina.

Apparently many of Sprint’s lines are routed through a switching center located in New Orleans. Citizens advises their service was returned late last night, although they did caution that it could still be spotty in the Panhandle.

Miller calls Katrina “Unusual”

“This was an unusual Category One hurricane, Sam Miller, executive director of the Florida Insurance Council told Insurance Journal. “Normally Cat One’s are minimal for us, but it was growing in strength and intensifying toward a Cat Two when it made landfall.”

Miller saw preliminary damage estimates of $600 million from the Insurance Information Institute. He said another variable in questions about the amount of damages involve whether or not you include flooding estimates, he said that after National Flood Insurance reports its claims the total damages from Katrina could dramatically increase.

“Dade and Broward counties had a high amount of damage for a Cat One hurricane, but of course our damages pale compared to Louisiana and Mississippi,” Miller said. “There were tropical storm winds in the Florida Panhandle but we are not anticipating any major additional damages from the second landfall.

“Miami’s situation is not too bad, the total number of claims and losses are manageable,” Miller said.

According to FIC, each carrier must interpret the hurricane deductible statute in conjunction with hurricane watches and warnings and make its own determination about application of the hurricane deductible to Panhandle losses related to Katrina’s second landfall.

The statutes require that the hurricane deductible be applied only to losses from a weather system that has been designated a hurricane and during this time period—from the imposition of the first hurricane watches or warnings for Florida through 72 hours after the lifting of the last hurricane watches or warnings.

This 72-hour clock expired Sunday afternoon for the South Florida landfall. The NHC did, however, include West Florida from Destin to the Alabama line in a hurricane watch issued at 10 p.m. Sun., Aug. 28. Legally, this resets the 72-hour clock.

Statute (627.4025):

(c) “Hurricane” for purposes of paragraphs (a) and (b) means a storm system that has been declared to be a hurricane by the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service. The duration of the hurricane includes the time period, in Florida:

1. Beginning at the time a hurricane watch or hurricane warning is issued for any part of Florida by the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service;

2. Continuing for the time period during which the hurricane conditions exist anywhere in Florida; and

3. Ending 72 hours following the termination of the last hurricane watch or hurricane warning issued for any part of Florida by the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service.

PIA of Fla. wants to share

“The staff and members of Professional Insurance Agents of Florida learned a great deal from the storms of 2004 and want to share our lessons and knowledge with anyone in need,” Mary Frederick, PIA of Florida communications director said. “We have shared access to our Hurricane Resource Center with the members of PIA of Louisiana and PIA of Mississippi with instructions to share with any agent in need. PIA of Florida’s Hurricane Resource Center is jammed packed full of disaster-related topics with access normally limited to PIA of Florida members.”

Frederick said PIA’s headquarters has secured the limited permission from ACORD for all PIA agents and affiliates in the areas affected by Katrina to distribute and use three forms: ACORD Property Loss Notice, ACORD General Liability Notice of Loss, and ACORD Auto Loss Notice. See http://www.pianet.com/IssuesOfFocus/HotIssues/naturaldisaster/8-29-05-4.htm for info.

PIA of Florida staff found its Panhandle agents heaving huge sighs of relief. They called members in Escambia, Okaloosa, and Walton counties. Everyone was fine… moderate claims activity has been reported. Calls to our Dade, Broward, and Monroe county members show that claims are manageable with power and water outages here and there.

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