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Florida tallies Hurricane Irma costs and considers stormy future

State officials have yet to come to terms fully with the damage wrought by Hurricane Irma. While officials continue to calculate damages, the Office of Insurance Regulation has estimated that filings for property damage have reached $7.21 billion so far. Throughout the Caribbean and Florida, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has attributed $50 billion in damages to the last hurricane season. The citrus industry took a particularly bad hit for $2.5 billion in agricultural damage just when fruit growers were expecting their best crop in a decade.

After the state enjoyed a 10-year lull in severe storms; Hurricane Irma reminded legislators of the omnipresent threat of storms in the region. Lawmakers have put forward numerous ideas to improve storm preparations. The House Speaker has created a select committee to evaluate close to 80 proposals before referring them to legislative committees.

Recommendations cover a range of storm-related issues, including ideas to address gas shortages and improve the power infrastructure. The committee appears eager to ask the Public Service Commission to shift power lines underground whenever possible to protect power connections from wind damage. The deaths of 14 people at a nursing home after a hurricane have prompted widespread support for requiring nursing homes to install backup generators.

Widespread storm damage also puts insurance adjusters into damage control mode. A person encountering a denial for a legitimate insurance claim could seek the support of an attorney. With so many hurricane damage claims being filed, insurers will be motivated to find reasons to limit settlements. An attorney could examine the terms of the policy and organize evidence to counter the denials of insurance companies. The advocacy of an attorney might prompt an insurer to reconsider a claim. When necessary, an attorney might be able to pursue a person's rightful compensation in court.

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