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Thousands still dealing with Irma-related claims woes in Florida

One Florida woman got her 2018 Christmas present more than a year after her home sustained damage from Hurricane Irma - an adjusted claim payment that allowed her to repair her home. However, this homeowner's claim's process was anything but smooth. Initially, the claim amount was far below what was needed to repair extensive roof damage, so a complaint was filed with the Department of Financial Services that resulted in a long insurance company battle.

According to DFS records, there are nearly 600 complaints against the same insurance company involved with the situation discussed above because of the way they have been handling hurricane damage claims. Common issues include underpayment, unreasonable delays, and cancellation of policies. The Insurance Information Institute suggests some claims disputes may be due to the fact that some out-of-state adjusters aren't familiar with typical Florida construction costs, so they value claims too low.

It's estimated that Irma has resulted in more than $11 billion in insurance claim payments. A representative from the Insurance Information Institute notes that nearly 95 percent of claims related to this storm have already been closed. While there are only a small percentage of claim seekers who haven't had a satisfactory resolution, the figure could still be as high as 70-80,000. Claims of this nature often remain open if there is a dispute or litigation involved. The first step dissatisfied homeowners with storm damage can take is to file a complaint with the Florida Division of Financial Services. Legally, insurance companies must respond to complaints filed with the state within 20 days.

If there is a disagreement about claims payments for hurricane damage, it's often advised that consumers go through an insurance provider's internal appeals process before taking further action. Should this step fail to produce acceptable results, however, an attorney may attempt to seek an appropriate resolution. If this isn't possible, a lawyer might escalate the matter and request intervention from the court to secure reasonable claims payments. In some cases, an insurance company found at fault may be required to pay legal fees and cover certain other client expenses.

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