Florida State Regulators & Insurance Lobbyists Continue to put Florida Policyholders at Risk
In 2011, investigative reporter, Ms. Paige St. John of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for her investigative reporting that produced multiple news articles examining Florida’s murky property insurance system vital to Florida’s property owners. Ms. St. John provided helpful data for consumers to evaluate their insurance company’s (and the industry) reliability, sustainability, and ultimately uncovered how State regulators and insurance company lobbyists oftentimes put the best interests of Florida’s insurance consumers at risk, while at the same time “big insurance” continues to roll the dice and gamble to cash in. This is a recurring theme that takes place at the same time each year as politicians report to Tallahassee, FL to fulfill their promises while seemingly ignoring their obligations.
This year, the mayhem began on January 7, 2020 when Florida’s Senate Banking and Insurance Committee introduced legislation via House Bill (HB 1137) that is “all about consumer protection.” The proposed language written in the Bill is being championed by Florida CFO, Mr. Jimmy Patronis who is a native Floridian born and raised in Panama City where Hurricane Michael roared ashore in October 2018.
For the average citizen one must ask, what is wrong with protecting the consumer? The concept sounds great, appears logical, so why not support any advocate who shares a passion to protect Florida’s insurance consumers, especially after they have suffered devastating property losses as a result of catastrophic (CAT) events such as Hurricane Michael? Presumably, insurance companies should be able to fulfill their promises to pay insurance claims and if they do not, one would hope that the Florida Department of Financial Services would step in to help along with officials who work for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation who’s Office serves Floridians through its responsibilities for regulation, compliance and enforcement of statutes related to the business of insurance. The Office is also entrusted with the duty of carefully monitoring statewide industry markets.
So where is the disconnect?
The answer to this question was learned on February 12, 2020 after insurance company lobbyists, politicians and State legislators made amendments to their "Consumer Protection" Bill, discretely revising, amending and adding language that many industry claim professionals consider unfair and unconstitutional, not only for the professionals who work in our industry, but also for Florida’s insurance consumers who will be ultimately stripped of their rights and voices silenced – all occurring during their most desperate time of need. Clearly, the amended language appears to be government overreach and an attempt to eliminate policyholder advocacy rights in Florida, rather than make a genuine attempt to protect Florida’s consumers.
Citizens and consumers throughout our State need to be aware of this Bill’s unintended consequences, especially given all the changes to the laws and regulations that are still currently in place, many of which are rarely enforced. If passed, new laws and regulations would likely be extremely harmful for policyholder consumers who wish to engage professional claim representation, assistance, and help from people such as licensed public insurance adjusters who work very hard to help people resolve their insurance claims following catastrophic events such as Hurricane Michael and other hurricanes our State is constantly vulnerable.
Of greater concern, is the fact that this bill includes harmful language for consumer advocates in so much that regulations and requirements of claims adjusters are not equal after consideration of how regulations and time constraints will be imposed upon professionals such as public insurance adjusters, but the very same requirements are not required of insurance company staff adjusters nor the independent adjusters that are frequently hired to work claim overloads. Clearly, this is a double standard, but the person who will suffer the most is the consumer as this Bill seeks to protect the best interests of Florida’s insurance company’s who have more money to pay their big lobby powers.
To confirm the statement above, the “Summary Analysis” of HB 1137 specifically states: “The bill makes the following changes to the laws governing the divisions under the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS).” “The bill may have a positive impact on State revenues. It has no impact on State expenditures or local government revenues or expenditures. The Bill may have a positive economic benefit to consumers and a possible indeterminate negative economic impact on insurers. Except where otherwise provided, the bill is effective upon becoming law.”
Now let’s examine these “Effects of the Proposed Changes,” as written verbatim in the HB 1137 Summary Analysis:
Requirements Placed on Licensees of the Department of Financial Services:
Agents, Customer and Service Representatives, Adjusters, Insurance Agencies, Managing General Agents, and Insurance Adjusting Firms
Section 626.112, F.S., sets forth various requirements that insurance agents, agencies, adjusters, customer and service representatives, and managing general agents must meet in order to operate within Florida. However, it includes no requirements for insurance adjusting firms. DFS has indicated that the lack of requirements renders them unable to track and address concerns with adjusting firms and adjusters who work for them.17
Additionally, while current law provides penalties for acting as an unlicensed insurance agent, adjuster, customer or service representative, or managing general agent, it does not provide any penalties for aiding or abetting an unlicensed person in transacting insurance or otherwise engaging in insurance activities within the state.
Effect of the Bill
The bill establishes that no individual or entity may act as an adjusting firm unless it complies with the legal requirements for obtaining an adjusting firm license for each location where activity occurs that only a licensed adjuster may perform. However, a licensed adjusting firm owned and operated by a single licensed adjuster conducting business in his or her individual name and not employing or using the services of other licensees is exempt from this requirement. If an adjusting firm is required to be licensed, but fails to apply for licensure, it may be assessed an administrative penalty of up to $10,000.
The bill also establishes that any person who knowingly aids or abets an unlicensed person in transacting insurance or otherwise engaging in insurance activities in Florida without a license commits a third-degree felony.
Public adjusters are regulated under ch. 626, part VI, F.S. Florida law defines a public adjuster as someone who, for something of value, directly or indirectly, prepares, completes, or files an insurance claim for an insured or third-party claimant, or who, for something of value, acts on behalf of, or aids, an insured or third-party claimant in settling a claim for loss or damage covered by an insurance contract, or who advertises for employment as an adjuster of such claims.27 In general, a claimant executes a contract for the public adjuster to provide claims adjusting services.28 At present, such a contract may only be canceled within three days after the latter of the date on which the contract was executed on which the claimant has notified the insurer of the claim.29 Public adjusters who have contracted with claimants must also provide to the claimant a written estimate of loss to assist the claimant with obtaining a claim payment from the insurance company. According to information received from DFS, following the hurricanes that have affected Florida in recent years, consumers have complained about claims resolution delays due to the lack of responsiveness of public adjusters they hired and the inability to cancel contracts they have executed with these adjusters.30
Effect of the Bill
The bill establishes that, during a state of emergency declared by the Florida Governor, and for one year after the date of loss, an insured or claimant may cancel a contract with a public adjuster without penalty or obligation within the latter of 14 calendar days after the date on which the contract was executed or the date on which the insured or claimant notified the insurer of the claim. In the absence of a declared state of emergency and beyond the one-year period following any declared state of emergency, an insured or claimant has seven calendar days, after the latter of the date on which the policyholder executed a contract with a public adjuster or the date on which the insured or claimant notified the insurer of the claim, to cancel the contract without penalty or obligation. Additionally, the written estimate that the public adjuster must provide to the claimant must include a written itemized per unit estimate of the repairs, including itemized information on equipment, materials, and labor and supplies. A public adjuster’s failure to provide the estimated within 45 days of the date the claimant executed a contract with the public adjuster restores the claimant’s right to cancel the contract. If the adjuster fails to provide the estimate 50 days after the contract is executed, the contract is void.
Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights and Policy Delivery
Section 627.7142, F.S., contains a Homeowners Claim Bill of Rights (Bill of Rights) that insurers issuing personal lines residential property insurance policies in Florida must provide to policyholders within 14 days after receiving an initial communication with respect to a claim. While the Bill of Rights does not contain all of the rights of a policyholder, it is designed to summarize some of the significant rights, including rights regarding communications from insurers, payments of claims, and resolution of disputed claims.31 At present, when timeframes are listed in the Bill of Rights, they do not specify whether they are determined in calendar or business days.32 The Bill of Rights contains no requirements that an insurer notify the policyholder when it assigns a different adjuster to the claim. It does not specify that a policyholder may be entitled to receive interest from an insurer when they insurer fails to timely fulfil claim obligations. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights does not mention that a policyholder may take video of damage before and after repairs in addition to photographs of the damage.
Section 627.421, F.S., provides certain requirements for the delivery of an insurance policy to a policyholder following the inception of coverage. However, it does not require that a personal lines residential policyholder receive notice of his or her hurricane coverages at any point following the initial delivery of a policy.
Effect of the Bill
The Bill amends the Bill of Rights in the following ways:
- clarifies that all timeframes mentioned within it will be calculated based upon calendar days;
- states that a policyholder to which the Bill of Rights applies must receive notification from the insurance company within 14 calendar days if there has been a change in the company adjuster assigned to a claim and the notification must include the assigned adjuster’s contact information
- states that a policyholder to which the Bill of Rights applies must receive the payment of interest from the insurance company if the insurance company does not pay full settlement of a claim or deny the claim within 90 calendar days after the claim is filed; and
- clarifies that in addition to photographs, a policyholder may take video of damage before and after repairs.
The bill amends the statute regarding delivery of insurance policies to require that for personal lines residential property insurance policies, between March 1, and June 1, each year, the insurer shall deliver an outline of hurricane coverage and a copy of their declarations page to all policyholders. This notification will be provided only to policyholders who have a valid email address on file with their insurers.
Insurer’s Duties to Acknowledge and Investigate Claims
Pursuant to Florida law, residential property insurers have certain obligations regarding the handling of claims, including responding to communications and timely payment or denial of claims.33 Policyholders have complained to DFS that repeated changes in adjusters for insurance companies have contributed to significant claim delays.34 In addition, policyholders have indicated that because of a lack of access to claims information, their insurance agents are not able to respond claims-related questions in a meaningful way.35
The applicable law neither requires that any licensed adjuster assigned by an insurer to conduct a physical inspection of damage property provide the policyholder with his or her name, license number, and contact information, nor requires that the insurer provide a copy of the inspection report to the policyholder following receipt from the adjuster. There is no statutory requirement that an insurer notify a policyholder when it has assigned a new adjuster to the policyholder’s claim. Further, the law does not contain any mandate that the insurer inform the policyholder of the fact that an estimate may be preliminary in nature and may be revised or the fact that when a partial payment is issued the insurer is continuing to evaluate a claim and may issue additional payments.
Effect of the Bill
The bill makes the following changes existing law regarding the investigation and adjusting of residential property insurance claims:
- If an investigation of a claim involves a physical inspection of property, a licensed adjuster assigned by the insurer must provide a policyholder with his or her name, license number, and contact information.
- If an insurer assigns the claim to a new licensed adjuster following the receipt of the report, the insurer must provide the policyholder with the name, license number, and contact information for the newly assigned licensed adjuster within seven days after the change. Any subsequent changes to the assigned licensed adjuster must be handled in the same way.
- An insurer must establish a process so that the named agent of record36 or another designated point of contract for an insurance policy is provided access to the information gathered from an inspection by an adjuster so that the agent of record can answer policyholder questions regarding claims.
- When providing a preliminary or partial damage claim estimate or a preliminary or partial claim payment, an insurer must provide a detailed disclosure as specified in the bill.
The bill establishes that s. 627.70131, F.S., regarding residential property insurance claims, shall be applicable to surplus lines policies in addition to policies written on the admitted market.
Company Employee Adjusters
A “company employee adjuster” is a licensed insurance adjuster who is appointed and employed on an insurer’s adjusting staff or a wholly owned subsidiary of the adjuster.37 The duties of such an adjuster include determining the amount of claim, loss, or damage payable under an insurance policy, and settling the claim, loss, or damage.38
Effect of the Bill
The bill adds adjusters employed by an insurer’s affiliate to the definition of company employee adjuster.
IV. AMENDMENTS/ COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE CHANGES
On January 28, 2020, the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee considered the bill, adopted one strike all amendment, and reported the bill favorably as a committee substitute. The strike-all amendment contained the provisions of the original bill and made the following modifications and clarifications:
- Clarified that the documents that a licensee must provide to DFS or OIR in response to a written request are only those documents that are not subject to attorney-client privilege.
- Clarified that consumers must either sign or otherwise acknowledge receipt of the disclosure notifying them of the export of their insurance policies to the surplus lines market and eliminated from that disclosure the statement that coverage on the admitted market may not be cheaper.
- Clarified that collateral protection insurance by a mortgagee does not constitute sliding.
- Eliminated the requirement that personal lines residential property insurers must send the Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights to policyholders each year. It also expanded the period during which insurers must mail hurricane coverage information to policyholders from March 3 through April 1, to March 1 through June 1, and provides that this information will only be provided to policyholders who have email addresses on file with their insurers.
- Eliminated the requirement that an insurer send a copy of a physical inspection report from an adjuster to a policyholder.
- Changed the effective date for certain sections of the bill to January 1, 2021.
- Made various formatting and technical changes to the bill.
On February 13, 2020, the Commerce Committee considered the bill, adopted one strike all amendment, and reported the bill favorably as a committee substitute. The strike-all amendment contained the provisions of the prior committee substitute and made the following modifications and clarifications:
- Added a section amending the electronic signature requirements for salvage certificates of title.
- Clarified that an insurer need not produce work-product privileged documents in response to information requests from DFS or OIR.
- Changed the number of days that a policyholder has to cancel a contract with a public adjuster from 21 days during a state of emergency, and for one year thereafter, to 14 days.
- Changed the requirements regarding the estimate that a public adjuster must provide to a policyholder to include itemized details about the cost of repairs, and to provide the policyholder an opportunity to cancel the contract if the public adjuster does not provide the estimate within 45 days from the date of the execution of the contract.
- Amended the definition of company employee adjuster.
- Specified that a property insurer will send a copy of a policyholder’s declarations page along with the outline of hurricane coverage each year.
- Changed the number of days that a property insurer has to notify an insured of a change in adjuster from seven to 14 days.
- Expanded the prohibition on foreign venue clauses in property insurance policies covering real property located in Florida so that it applies to all personal and commercial property insurance policies.
- Increased the amount of fees that a claimant’s representative can charge for the recovery of unclaimed property if the apparent owner of the unclaimed property is deceased with an estate that is required to be probated.
- Made various formatting and technical changes.
The staff analysis has been updated to reflect the committee substitute.
After reading and understanding the proposed new laws noted above, how it is fair for insurance companies and their adjusters who work for them have requirements eliminated such as insurer’s who are not required to send a copy of a physical inspection report from an adjuster to a policyholder, yet licensed public insurance adjusters who cannot provide their repair estimates to policyholders to include itemized details about the cost of repairs, and to provide the policyholder an opportunity to cancel the contract if the public adjuster does not provide the estimate within 45 days from the date of the execution of the contract will have their Contracts automatically VOID as per the new law?
Whether the legislature gets it done this year or next, the intentions are clear and all of Florida’s consumers, consumer advocates and licensed professional public insurance adjusters who help consumers throughout the United States must act now and pay attention as the people who support the atrocious language outlined in this Bill clearly seeks to further restrain and/or potentially eliminate the 100-year old Public Insurance Adjusting profession altogether starting in our great State of Florida.
Not only is the language unconstitutional and unfair to policyholders and the professionals who represent them, adding this language appears to be government overreach and an attempt to silence policyholder advocacy in Florida rather than a genuine attempt to protect consumers. The revisions are noted below and since our firm has learned about discrete amendment filing, we support organizations such as FAPIA, NAPIA and others who are working very hard to fight this most dangerous precedent.
Section 11. Subsections (6) and (11) of section 626.854, 288 Florida Statutes, are amended to read:
“Each public adjuster must provide to the claimant or insured a written estimate of the loss to assist in the submission of a proof of loss or any other claim for payment of insurance proceeds. The written estimate shall include a written itemization per unit estimate of the repairs, including itemized information on equipment, materials, labor, and supplies, in accordance with accepted industry standards. The public adjuster shall retain such written estimate for at least 5 years and shall make the estimate available to the claimant or insured, the insurer, and the department upon request. Failure to provide the required estimate within 45 calendar days after the date on which the contract is executed shall restore the insured's right to cancel the public adjuster's contract without penalty or obligation. The insured retains such right until such time as the public adjuster submits the required estimate or the contract becomes void. If the public adjuster fails to submit the required estimate within 50 calendar days after the date on which the contract is executed, the contract is deemed void.”
First, I have to ask: What other profession is required to potentially put weeks of hard work into a project to try and arrive at a sum certain amount to repair and restore an insured’s home often under the most dire working conditions following a catastrophic loss environment, which the State sequentially declares a STATE OF EMERGENCY. And remember declaring a state of emergency is helpful in the initial phase of recovery of injured people and certifying
structures to be clear from hazards like structural hazards some say comes with a lot of unnecessary baggage, road blocks of various kinds for mitigation by the insured of their property, and other impediments that possibly may impede adjusters for getting an early start on the time consuming and detailed damage assessments to prepare proper damage estimates and reports to submit to the carriers.
In the case of time limitations being proposed on the public adjusting profession trying to put the pieces back together for their policyholder clients, public adjusters AND their clients may be prohibited to produce a credable work product within 50 days from signing a contract which will void their contract on the 50th day!
Can you imagine all that lost work product, with many insureds having to start over from scratch or worse trying to track down the adjuster for the insurance company, who due to their workload, may not have started the loss assessment process other than taken some pictures to send back to a desk adjuster? And then there is the issue of the policyholder having to rely on what likely will be a multiple page document completely foreign to the lay person who has just lost their home and all their personal possessions and important paperwork, policy documentation, etc.
Since 1984 our firms licensed public insurance adjusters have worked to help thousands of Florida’s consumers following catastrophic losses to their properties. Many of our firm’s professional public adjusters used to be employed and work as staff adjusters for some of the largest insurance carriers in the United States, so we fully understand all the stresses and anxieties of people who have suffered damage or lost everything in the most dire of situations, not to mention all the insured policyholder consumers who are compelled to file an insurance claim who have their own expectations of the insurance claims process, which they later learn are not what they expected.
After all, just think about all the consumers who have been through a situation where perhaps all their worldly possessions are damaged or lost who eventually become frustrated with all the delays that are clearly inherent in the claims process, the least of which is trying to understand and comprehend the complex insurance policy verbiage so as to understand their rights while at the same time they are busy trying to recover, salvage, repair or replace all their lost property, which they were led to believe their insurance policy supposedly covers. Certainly, the average insurance consumer has likely never endured an insurance claim before so naturally they are not astute to all the nuances, policy conditions and provisions that policyholders are required to comply and meet.
Policyholders very simply want their homes and properties repaired and/or replaced back to their pre-loss condition sooner rather than later, BUT (and, this is a big BUT) there are many issues that need to be taken into consideration in order for any insurance claim to be properly adjusted before an insurance company will pay out policy benefits to the insured policyholder. Specifically, one must consider the post-loss environment following a major CAT event such as a hurricane. To describe that environment as “chaos” would be an understatement. Oftentimes, law enforcement and emergency managers prohibit access to regions that are devastated. Correspondingly, consumers are often forced to evacuate to areas far removed from the disaster area and after learning their properties were damaged, many consumers who have the authority to act and seek to engage their respective claims adjusters to represent their best interests in the claims process it can be difficult given damages to infrastructure and simple methods of communications are down as well. It is not unusual for clients of our firm to call us or have family and friends reach out on their behalf to request help from our firms licensed public adjusters. We have negotiated Contracts over the phone, sent the required contract forms to family and friends, which all named insureds must sign and return via email and in some cases via a text message.
Now, the revised language as stated in the proposed Bill and Amendments, start the clock ticking for all public insurance adjusters to get their estimate together, regardless if the public adjuster is able to access region or conduct thorough inspections of the insureds property! Public insurance adjusters who need to coordinate and engage outside experts such as Engineers and other professionals required to help formulate the correct scope and price of the loss as well as determine causation, etc. are further hampered by these proposed time constraints. And remember that ever-important insurance policy? Insurance companies are often requested to provide their insureds with a Certified & True Copy of the Policy contract to include ALL Forms and Endorsements that are applicable to the loss, which the Policy should explain and clarify all the coverages, insurance policy limits, deductibles, etc. that are available to policyholders who sustained property damages. This certified and complete copy of the insurance policy must be obtained from the insurance company and/or signed and notarized by underwriting before it can be mailed out, which in some instances can take weeks to be sent. However, public insurance adjusters and their clients must learn and understand the policy coverages and language that is specific to their specific situation – well before any reputable adjuster can begin the loss assessment phase of the claims process. And let’s not forget, we are talking about a CAT loss environment with a declared STATE OF EMERGENCY in place. After CAT events we frequently see insurance companies, independent adjusting companies, and other professional groups are completely overwhelmed under these circumstances, just the same as the rest of us.
So within the time limit now being proposed for a professional public insurance adjuster to provide their repair estimate, they first need an accurate insurance policy (yes this is critical as there are top of the line policies and there are the cheap bare bones forms), but this simple detail alone can make a huge difference in how the claim should be put together in order for the policyholder consumer to comply with everything required of them and losses that need to match up with their proper policy coverages. You need access to the property, as well as a whole host of other information to complete your preliminary work to ensure a successful adjustment of your client’s loss.
So, let’s review some of the things a professional public adjuster may have to do in the wake of a CAT loss environment, and remember every one that has been affected may be in competition to retain the same limited expert resources.
Just out of curiosity has anyone been able to solve this riddle within 50 days of a CAT event of which came first--the flood or the wind? Think this is not a big deal? Remember Florida’s housing stock is in large part in coastal flooding areas. In the event of flood and wind impact on a property, I can almost guarantee there will not be consensus between various “experts,” including government officials, either at the local, state or federal level of which part of the damage was caused by wind or flood or for that matter which came first. So, can someone tell me how you can write an estimate within 50 days to separate out these fact issues of wind vs flood? And remember there are no insurance policies now in existence that cover wind and flood in the same policy, which if there were, there would be no need to wait for the experts to sort through all the evidence--one estimate would be sufficient provided the scope and price of the loss is calculated correctly. The WIND vs FLOOD fight often goes on for months or years. If lawyers are involved in a court setting, you are most likely going to be in the fight for the long haul.
What if the property requires moisture mapping to identify where water penetrated, or what if an Industrial Hygienist is required to come in and perform testing in order to complete air quality or mold assessment to pass air quality protocols in order to get an air clearance certificate? By adding vendor experts in the mix, the adjuster must wait because the Industrial Hygienist has to send air samples and surface tapes off to a specialized laboratory for testing. The policyholder’s adjuster nor the insurance company can control or guarantee when the lab test results are going to be reported. Even when they do come back in a timely manner, all parties must wait for the Industrial Hygienist to finalize their remediation protocol in accordance with IICRC Industry Guidelines. Are you seeing the bigger picture here? The adjuster must supply his written estimate that must include written itemization per unit estimate of the repairs, including itemized information on equipment, materials, labor, and supplies, in accordance with accepted industry standards. Another concern is that there are requirements such as including itemized information about drying logs within a certain time period before payments are made by the carrier.
Another example of time delay is if the subject property is structurally compromised and requires an engineering analysis. Or how about an analysis of Law and Ordinance issues of what must be done to bring the property up to the current building code. Or separate out code requirements for the loss as code coverage was not in the policy. Remember the 50% Rule, which will be enforced by the local building officials as it is a FEMA oversight issue. If you think law and ordinance code issues are for the faint of heart, try reading Florida’s many building code books or visit your local building department and see if you can figure it out. Building Code requirements are constantly changing and they are set to change again in 2021.
Then we have issues in a CAT environment where the insurance companies have assigned hundreds of claims to independent adjusters to inspect and photograph and in some cases write their own estimate if within the assigned adjusters’ authority. In many situations we’ve seen some of those insurance company adjusters get so frustrated and burnt out that they left their claim files in their hotel rooms, packed their bags and went home. Now you have to
chase down the new adjuster and start the whole process over again. Sometimes you are chasing multiple adjusters after a file is completely been reassigned. Damage assessment of a policyholder’s property damage should not be rushed and burdening the public adjuster with a 50-day requirement may not be in the best interest of the policyholder given all the issues arising in a CAT loss adjustment.
While it is convenient to point blame at Public Insurance Adjusters (which some insurance lobbyists often try to do in order to deflect the offenses of their own industry), there are always a select few “bad apples” that acted in a way to embarrass the entire profession. There is nothing new here. Doctors, lawyers, contractors, and other professions all have to deal with individual colleagues who act outside of accepted behavioral norms and requirements.
State Regulators know who these bad actors are. The Florida Department of Financial Services know who they are and there are enforcement mechanisms which exist to deal with these situations, yet nothing seemingly is done. Laws are passed, yet rarely enforced. Good law or bad, the industry is trying to scapegoat someone for failures to respond and fairly settle policyholder claims by blaming the public adjuster industry. But this legislation is most definitely removed from the realities of the insurance claims process in a normal setting, let alone the aftermath of the hurricanes we have experienced over the past years. Also, there is obviously no understanding of the investigative process an ethical adjuster must pursue for their client.
Conversely, if these very same proposed legislative changes outlined in CS/HB 1137 were to be applied to the insurance companies and their adjusters (emergency or not), I do not believe that any veteran or seasoned adjuster would be able to complete "the estimate" in 50 days given the work load following a CAT event.
In fact, there is no law or statute that requires adjusters working for the Insurance Company to make an inspection of a damaged property. Of greater concern in HB 1137, is the fact that adjusters working for insurance companies are not required to supply their estimates. There was an attempt to redefine that, but it was ultimately stricken and eliminated. Clearly there is a double standard that makes this unfair for PA's seeking to help consumers while the insurance side is not held to the same standards. Maybe if the claim is not settled in a certain matter of days, the insurance policy should be void and carrier required to Pay full Policy limits!!
And let’s not forget attorneys are swarming into the adjusting ranks calling themselves “Public Adjuster Attorneys.” If the legislature really wants to pass this bill and have it be effective, then they also need to ensure similar time limitations on the attorneys who sign up many more clients immediately after a storm than do public adjusters, and on the insurance carriers who will simply slow walk their responses.
Lastly, what if Hurricane Dorian had hit the State of Florida and damaged a significant amount of our communication infrastructure? What is the consensus in this scenario, especially if the insurance company is unable to access or deploy to the region to inspect properties and provide their coverage decision within the 90-day statutory requirement? Is this fair to the policyholder? Or if the insurance industry fails to meet their settlement time requirements, can the policyholder claim full policy benefits?
This legislation just adds salt to a band aid wound by stripping away policyholder's rights to a fair and complete claim assessment. I urge anyone who shares my concern to call their local state legislator, pass this blog along and make them aware of this absurdity. (See below for more information on how to contact your local representative.)
If there are bad apples who abandoned their clients or failed to do their job in a timely manner given the circumstances and conditions imposed on them, then the officials who oversee the licensing need to come down hard on those individuals. Proposing new law which most likely will not be a deterrent but may be a hindrance to folks seeking help at the time of their need is NOT the answer and will likely end up in the grave yard of past legislative follies, like the 48 hour ban on solicitation, and the mandatory payment of all property claims at full replacement.
In closing, we again reiterate our support for organizations such as the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters whose number one goal is to protect policyholders and the public adjusting profession. FAPIA has established programs that enable FAPIA’s leadership to educate the Florida legislature on major issues affecting our profession and to help deter regulation that hurts policyholders and the profession. Our firm will be contributing funds to support FAPIA, however in order for FAPIA to be successful with their legislative efforts, they need help and financial contributions. If you are likewise concerned with this bill, please consider making a donation by clicking HERE.
Our firm applauds any regulator, elected official, industry leader or others who are in good faith attempting to help the citizens of our state following a catastrophic event. But remember, all of us should consider a simple pledge when called on in our respective fields, FIRST, DO NO HARM.
Let us know what you think and please share the link to this article.
Florida Legislators to Contact
Senator Lisbeth Benaquisto
Phone No: (239) 338-2570
Senator Audrey Gibson
Phone No: (904) 359-2553
Senator Lauren Book
Phone No: (954) 424-6674
Senator Rob Bradley (R)
Phone No: (904) 278-2085
Senator Jeff Brandes (R)
Phone No: (727) 563-2100
Senator Oscar Braynon II (D)
Phone No: (305) 654-7150
Senator Gary M. Farmer, Jr. (D)
Phone No: (954) 467-4227
Senator Anitere Flores (R)
Phone No: (305) 222-4117
Senator Travis Hutson (R)
Phone No: (386) 446-7610
Senator Tom Lee (R)
Phone No: (813) 653-7061
Senator Bill Montford (D)
Phone No: (850) 487-5003
Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R)
Phone No: (239) 417-6205
Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D)
Phone No: (305) 854-0365
Senator David Simmons (R)
Phone No: (407) 262-7578
Senator Wilton Simpson (R)
Phone No: (352) 688-5077
Senator Kelli Stargel (R)
Phone No: (863) 668-3028
Senator Perry E. Thurston, Jr. (D)
Phone No: (954) 321-2705