Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Phone-y Closed Claims Parade

"For some hurricane victims, the success exists only on paper. Complaints about Citizens persist, even from last year's storms."
Paige St. John reports in today's Ft. Myers News-Press that Citizens Property Insurance and its "spin-off" privatized insurance companies "again" are leading the state in property insurance related complaints:
Regulators show Florida's insurer of last resort has incurred more than five times the number of complaints against Florida's largest private insurers, State Farm and Allstate.

The most complaints involve Atlantic Preferred, a Florida-based company built on about 81,000 policies taken out from Citizens. Its 791 complaint calls are nearly twice as many complaints as any other insurer in Florida, including Citizens itself, which is second with 473.
To this news, Citizens Property flak-catcher Justin Glover, who can always be counted on to spin like a hurricane, says, "We're not leading the pack as we were last year, and we are proud of that."

Glover's pride at the surge of 'good news' just doesn't quit:
Though 61 percent of its claims from Hurricane Wilma have not yet been adjusted, the state-run insurer has logged only 473 help calls to the Department of Financial Services consumer line. That compares to more than 6,000 in 2004.

"We're pleased with that change and think it is due to improvements from last year," Glover said.
Sixty-one percent? And Glover says he's "pleased with that change"?

Never mind the fact Citizens' consumer complaint lines often haven't worked at all. From where most hurricane victims sit, a more likely explanation for the lower volume of telephone complaints is that Floridians have pretty well given up on Citizens -- and the Department of Financial Services, for that matter. Telephoning the state's consumer 'complaint' lines is less effective than dropping a message bottle in the ocean.

As bad as the 61 percent open claims status at Citizens is, St. John's news report suggests the 'closed complaint' problem likely is even worse than it appears. The reporter uses Port Richey homeowner Barb Polsky as an example:
Polsky, still battling Citizens over Hurricane Frances damage from 14 months ago, challenges her insurer's assertion it has closed 99 percent of 2004 claims, along with state officials' willingness to accept such statements.

Unable to afford repairs, her walls have rotted and the mold is so severe the 63-year-old woman is afraid to turn on her heat or air systems. Because adjusters have offered Polsky a partial check, her insurer can declare the claim as "closed."

Closer to home, just the other day we encountered a well known, long-time Pensacola Beach resident who has a similar story. A retired teacher, she was widowed just weeks after Hurricane Ivan completely destroyed her large cinder block home, some 15 months ago. Wind ripped the roof off, sent her fence flying, and blew out windows. Rain soaked the interior. About four to five hours later, flood waters inundated the whole structure.

To date, she's received virtually nothing from Citizens or her flood insurance company. Each is pointing the finger at the other, and neither one is willing to compensate her for the total destruction of her home. After fruitlessly trying state "consumer help" lines to get help, our friend turned the whole thing over to a lawyer.

"I just couldn't get anyone to pay attention to me," she says. "So I hired a lawyer to deal with it."

Other Florida insurance companies listed by St. John as leading the 2005 Hurricane Telephone Complaint Parade include:
  • Atlantic Preferred
  • Citizens Property Insurance
  • Florida Preferred
  • Gulfstream Property and Casualty
  • Federated National
  • Allstate
  • State Farm
  • Universal Property and Casualty
  • Argus Fire
  • United Property and Casualty
For more information, read Paige St. John's article.


Anonymous said...

The best thing to do by far if an Insurance company is giving you a hard time is to get a Private Adjuster that works for you against the Insurane company. They only get paid when they get you over and above what the Insurance company already "offered" which is usually a low ball minimum.

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