Florida residents warned after Hurricane Irma racks up nearly $2 billion insurance bill
Regulator issues consumer alert for damage repairs.
The lasting effects of Hurricane Irma, which battered Florida’s west coast and caused immense damage as a result of powerful storm surges, have yet to be fully realised, as estimated insured losses approach $2 billion.
The latest claims data relating to Hurricane Irma, provided by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, reveals a quickly growing insurance bill of $1.954 billion as of September 17, 2017.
This includes claims from almost 250,000 homeowners for more than 294,500 residential properties and close to 10,000 commercial premises. Around 450 businesses also filed claims for operational interruptions.
Of the 335,347 claims submitted to-date, just 9,420 have been paid and finalised. A further 5,552 were closed without payments issued. This means just 4.5% of all claims have been serviced.
The counties with the highest number of claims (10,001 or more) include Brevard, Broward, Collier, Duval, Lake, Lee, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Seminole and Volusia.
Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier issued a statement encouraging Floridians to be aware of what they may be signing for repair work when assessing damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Altmaier said home or business owners who incurred a loss may need to contact a contractor, water extraction company, roofer, or a plumber to assist with emergency repairs.
After an initial damage assessment a homeowner may be presented with a document to sign before repair work is undertaken. Altmaier warns this form may also contain an Assignment of Benefits (AOB). If signed, it may give the repair vendor the right to exclusively communicate with a homeowners insurance company.
This means repairers may negotiate and endorse insurance claim payments or potentially file lawsuits against insurers, with or without a homeowners knowledge.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said unnecessary litigation associated with AOBs have been a cost driver in rising homeowners insurance rates across the state.
The regulator insists homeowners get to know their insurance policy by reading it, to understand their rights and responsibilities following a loss. Homeowners are also advised to contact their insurance company prior to signing any document that may contain an AOB and should not sign a document if there are blank spaces.
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