Wilma’s Aftermath: More Claims Than With Seven Other Storms; Consumers Complain to DFS About Slow Service

December 2, 2005

Florida’s Department of Financial Services reports its consumer services division has received more than 2,000 complaints from homeowners with Hurricane Wilma claims indicating that although they reported damages soon after Wilma hit, they have not yet seen any adjusters and have been unable to repair their homes.

It is estimated that Wilma could leave major home, condo and auto insurers with more claims than in all the other seven storms that hit Florida in 2004 and 2005. Platoons of adjusters have descended on the region, many from other states, to handle the estimated $6.1 billion in claims.

Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run insurer of last resort and the second largest home insurer in the state, told the Miami Herald it has handled more than 123,000 claims so far. That total, five weeks after Wilma hit, already has surpassed the 120,000 claims it saw after Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne last year.

Of those 123,000 claims, Citizens at the start of this week had settled 11 percent of its claims. A Citizens spokesperson said it has nearly 2,000 people working on adjusting claims, many of them for leaking roofs and blown-out windows.

State Farm, the state’s No. 1 insurer of homes and autos, is fielding 88,333 home property claims, including flood claims that it is adjusting for the National Flood Insurance Program. It also is handling more than 65,000 auto claims. Figures on how many claims State Farm has settled were unavailable Thursday.

Insurers are urging patience, but that’s dwindling among their customers. More than 2,000 homeowner complaints have been filed at the state Department of Financial Services’ consumer services division.

In Broward, more than 1,200 complaints out of about 1,500 deal with issues regarding adjusters, according to state documents. In Miami-Dade, there are nearly 199 adjuster complaints out of more than 500 complaints filed with the state.

”We see first the people where the need is greatest,” said Lynn McChristensen, a spokeswoman for USAA, which provides home and auto insurance for the military and their families told the Herald. USAA has received 25,530 home claims so far, and another 7,500 auto claims.

Citizens follows the same rule, said Justin Glover, a company spokesman.

So far, Glover said the company is meeting a state rule that requires insurers to acknowledge claims within 14 days after they are reported to the company.

”That doesn’t mean that everyone has seen an adjuster,” he said.
Some insurers are coming up with novel ways to handle claims more quickly.

State Farm set up two drive-through centers in South Florida to handle auto claims. At both, an auto glass installer fixed broken windshields and windows on the spot if possible.

The company is resolving small claims by phone, such as for screen enclosures or minor roof damage, said Jose Soto, a State Farm spokesman in Miami. He told the Herald homeowners are also advised to get repair estimates if they’re concerned that costs might not be enough to surpass their policy deductible.

The magnitude of damage brought about by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast is one reason insurers dealing with Wilma in South Florida are so stretched. They’re handling the aftermath of two large storms.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.