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Miami Florida Insurance Claim Law Blog

Florida municipalities still wrestling with Hurricane Irma costs

Homeowners and local governments in Florida are continuing to struggle two years after Hurricane Irma hit the region. The Category 4 storm struck the Florida Keys first before proceeding up the coast in September 2017 and left behind an array of debris as it traveled, including uprooted trees and bushes, broken branches and damaged palm fronds. In Orange County alone, local governments spent over $25 million to deal with storm damage, while Seminole County shouldered the burden of $17.8 million in costs. In Lake County, they paid $9.3 million, while they paid $5.8 million in Orlando and $4.9 million in Osceola.

There are millions of dollars in pending expenses waiting for reimbursement from FEMA to cover the costs. Some payments have come through, but Orange County is still waiting on its total of $31.6 million in expenses related to the storm. These types of long reimbursement delays are common when dealing with the federal government, but they have raised questions as counties and municipalities plan their budgets for the future. Local representatives have lobbied members of Congress and the federal government to move forward with reimbursements to give affected municipalities more stability. Because FEMA considered Irma such a major disaster, it pledged to pay 90% of eligible claims rather than the standard 75%.

Fewer insurance litigation cases after Hurricane Michael

There were fewer insurance litigation cases in Florida following Hurricane Michael than there were after Hurricane Irma according to one of the state's insurance companies. Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm, struck Florida's panhandle region in October 2018.

A spokesperson for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. said that 92% of the company's Hurricane Michael claims had been resolved as of Oct. 21. In total, the insurer received around 3,600 claims following the storm. Of the claims that are still open, a significant portion are in the appraisal phase of the process. That means there is a dispute over the amount of the settlement or the amount of property repairs needed and an independent party has been brought in to assess the case. The spokesperson also said that litigation cases are down when compared to Hurricane Irma.

Flood disclosure not required in Florida

Florida homeowners may be surprised to learn that there is no state law that requires disclosure of whether a house has a history of flooding. This is in stark contrast to Texas, which has the strictest laws in the nation on such matters. However, Florida is the state with the highest flood risk.

In 2015, one woman in Boynton Beach was told by both the seller and realtor that her new home did not have a history of severe flooding. After Hurricane Irma flooded her home in 2017, she filed an insurance claim and received $100,000, more than half her home's value. However, the insurance company then sent a follow-up letter informing her that since it was the fourth flood that incurred more than $5,000 in damages to the house, it was in a "severe repetitive loss" category and she had to elevate the home, sell the land or tear the home down and rebuild.

Minimize the chance of storm damage to your Florida property

Building a home or fixing a home after it suffers damage is the perfect opportunity to ensure that it is ready for the harsh weather that comes with storms in Florida. There are some aspects of this that your contractor can help you with, but it is always a good idea to know some of the basics.

The building codes in the area take hurricanes into account, so all reputable contractors should know what materials are suitable for the conditions here in Miami. It is always best to do what you are able to do to protect your home.

Large number of Hurricane Michael claims still outstanding

Government officials in Florida are being critical of insurance companies for their failure to settle claims resulting from Hurricane Michael in 2018. The storm was rated as Category 5 and included winds gusting up to 161 miles per hour. It caused insured losses estimated at over $7.2 billion. More than 17,000 insurance claims were still pending as of Sept. 27, 2019. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said that 12,145 of the remaining insurance claims are for personal residential damages.

Compared to Hurricane Irma, according to the Florida OIR, Hurricane Michael was costlier with regard to the amount of losses paid and the number of total claims. The average claim resulting from Hurricane Michael was for approximately $44,831. Lawmakers expressed to the Florida insurance commissioner that they are not pleased with the lack of action in the wake of Hurricane Michael. A state senator said during a meeting of the Florida Senate Banking & Insurance Committee that the claims need to be handled properly.

Homeowners still owed payouts for Hurricane Michael damage

According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Category 5 Hurricane Michael has led to over 150,000 insurance claims from businesses and homeowners. These claims represent over $7.1 billion in losses covered by insurance. The office noted that as of Sept. 27, 2019, 99,208 of those claims deal with hurricane damage to homes and other residential properties. While 132,201 claims, over 88% of those filed, have been closed since the devastating storm, this means that thousands of homeowners are still waiting for much-needed reimbursements for urgent repairs to their homes. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle with massive force and has left behind lasting damage as public buildings, businesses and homes go unrepaired.

The state insurance commissioner said that substantial work still needs to be done to resolve the outstanding homeowners' insurance claims. Recovery from the storm continues to be delayed when residents face delays or denials for their claims related to damage to their homes caused by the hurricane. Bay County has been the largest epicenter for insurance filings related to Michael as 89,519 of the claims originated there. However, the storm also impacted other Florida counties, including Gulf, Jackson, Calhoun and Liberty counties, all of which have at least 1,000 insurance claims filed.

Hurricane Michael's devastation continues a year later

Hurricane victims in northern Florida are raising the alarm that they continue to face severely difficult conditions one year after Hurricane Michael hit land. The Category 5 storm devastated rural communities and small towns throughout the Florida Panhandle as well as hitting some larger cities, such as Panama City and Port St. Joe. Even though the hurricane hit land in October 2018, residents continue to live in hotel rooms, trailers and tents as of fall 2019. Many buildings have not yet been repaired, and fallen trees continue to dominate the landscape in some places. Thousands of people have left the heavily impacted communities, especially due to the economic damage caused by the storm.

Agricultural crops like peanuts, timber and cotton were devastated by hurricane damage. In addition, homeowners continue to struggle with insurance companies that are denying or delaying payouts on their hurricane insurance claims. Due to the shortage of housing, affordable homes are few and far between, driving residents away from the area and leading to an even deeper economic crisis. In addition, public buildings also continue to show signs of devastation from the storm. Many children are attending school in trailers and other temporary buildings due to hurricane damage to their original school buildings.

City sewer system damaged by Hurricane Michael

One Florida city is continuing to face massive bills to repair its water and sewer system damaged by Hurricane Michael. Panama City, the largest city hit hard by the Category 5 storm, has suffered ongoing sewage leaks. According to local reports, over 65,000 gallons of raw sewage ran through streets and ditches through the town and into area streams and waterways. The city manager said that there would be costs of $200 million to $300 million to revamp the water and sewer systems to prevent future spills. While officials said that the problems' origin predated Hurricane Michael, the storm damage caused even more serious devastation.

Hurricane Michael has been called a forgotten storm because the damage it unleashed on major sections of Florida has gone largely unnoticed. Many of the areas hit hard were small towns and communities, away from major centers of political power or media attention. Hurricane damages remain in many areas with roads and buildings continuing to suffer from the effects of the storm. In many cases, people have left impacted communities and not moved back due to the devastation, slow repairs and a lack of affordable housing.

Thousands of Hurricane Michael insurance claims are still open

More than 18,000 insurance claims filed over property damage caused by Hurricane Michael last October have yet to be settled, according to Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. The information was disclosed during a Senate Banking and Insurance Committee panel on Sept. 17.

According to Altmaier, 18,211 insurance claims, or around 12% of the total claims filed after the Category 5 storm, are still open. Of those claims, around 50% are thought to be reopened claims intended to recover repair bills that were higher than the initial insurance payout. He also reported that the state's Office of Insurance Regulation had received few complaints from policyholders regarding Hurricane Michael claims, meaning that insurers appeared to be doing a good job of satisfying customers.

Watch out for bad faith claims after a hurricane

You knew that a hurricane was on its way, and it was clear that all the steps you could take to prevent your home from being damaged weren't likely to be enough. The winds were strong, the rain was harsh and the damage that resulted was devastating.

After the winds die down and the rain stops, you return to your home and see the devastating consequences of a hurricane. You and many others in your neighborhood and region may be considering filing claims for the damage that was caused. You're not alone, but you do have to be cautious when working with insurance agents.

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