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Florida legislature tallies cost of Hurricane Michael

Florida lawmakers have begun the process of estimating the damages to the mostly rural and low-income Panhandle region that bore the brunt of Hurricane Michael in October 2018. The state senate's Banking and Insurance Committee chairman said that the state needed to gather figures about the short and long-term costs of the storm to evaluate what the state could pay for and what was needed from the federal government.

As of January, 102,000 people had applied for storm relief and 16 counties met the criteria for federal aid. Massive agricultural damages have been reported to the state. The 155 mph hurricane winds of the Category 4 storm destroyed cotton crops and inflicted near total losses on oyster farming operations. The storm struck a heavy blow to the timber industry. Downed trees across 2.8 million acres of forest will take decades to regrow for harvest. Timber farmers have projected their losses at $1.3 billion.

A report to the Senate Appropriations Committee detailed how storm damage continues to impact demands on state resources that reinsure insurance companies. The insurance commissioner told lawmakers that Hurricane Michael had so far triggered 136,873 insurance claims on losses approaching $5 billion.

As people struggle to rebuild their lives, they often depend on timely settlements from their insurance companies. Widespread storm damage, however, places extra pressure on insurers to delay or minimize payouts, and a person might want legal representation when seeking answers about hurricane damage claims. An attorney might interpret contracts and notices from the insurer and explain the person's position. Pressure from an attorney might overcome delay tactics, but more contentious cases might require litigation when an insurer disputes or denies a property owner's legitimate claim.

Source: Pensacola News Journal, "Florida lawmakers eye 'long, long recovery' from Hurricane Michael", Jim Turner, Jan. 8, 2019

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