September 10, 2018, marked the one-year anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Irma in Florida. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the estimate of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma is $50,000,000,000. Well over a year since its devastation across the state, Floridians remain resilient and committed to rebuild their lives.
Given that Hurricane Irma came on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, many insurance carriers struggled to get enough insurance adjusters out to the affected areas. They often relied on third-party administrators and used either untrained or improperly trained adjusters in claim investigations.
As of August 13, 2018, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, over 311,550 Hurricane Irma claims have been closed without payment and more than 82,449 claims remained open. Policyholders in property insurance claim disputes often ask about the insurance carriers’ claims handling time limits. Below are some important time frames insurance carriers must follow in Florida.
Acknowledgment of Communication within 14 Days
Florida requires that an insurance carrier upon receiving a communication regarding a claim, the insurance carrier must acknowledge receipt of such communication within fourteen calendar days. This requirement does not apply if the insurance carriers paid the claims within fourteen calendar days or if the failure to acknowledge the claims is caused by factors beyond the insurance carriers’ control.
In addition to this, the insurance carriers must provide necessary claim forms, and instructions, including an appropriate telephone number. At this time, the policyholders should focus on preserving the evidence and gathering documentation regarding the claims, including, but not limited to, before and after photographs of the damaged property, receipts, proposals, estimates, etc. and promptly supplement their claims. Within ten days after the insurance carriers receive the proof of loss statements, they are required to begin the claim investigation.
Claim Decision (if covered)
Within 90 days after the insurance carriers receive notice of an initial, reopened, or supplemental property insurance claim from a policyholder, the insurance carriers shall pay or deny such claim or a portion of the claim unless the failure to pay is caused by factors beyond the control of the insurance carriers which reasonably prevent such payment.
Payment of Settlement
Where a policyholder and an insurance carrier have agreed in writing to amicably resolve a claim, the insurance carrier is required to tender payment in accordance with the terms of the agreement no later than 20 days after the settlement is reached.
Unfortunately, to date, many insurance claims remain unsettled or unpaid as policyholders face unreasonable delays. Additionally, policyholders face new challenges to comply with policy conditions invoked by insurance carriers well over a year since the date of loss and are forced to retain insurance professionals to conduct a comprehensive investigation of their Hurricane Irma damages due to insurance companies’ failure to do so. If you believe that your insurance carrier unjustly denied or low balled your claim, do not hesitate to challenge its decision by hiring a public adjuster to represent you.