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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.

House Bill 7065, which addressed the assignment of benefits, or AOB, in insurance policies, was also discussed during the panel. The law, which went into effect on July 1, did away with the controversial "one-way" attorney fee provision in the AOB statute. Under the statute, insurers were required to pay legal fees even if they won their lawsuit in court. Under the new bill, attorneys fees are awarded to the winning party on a sliding scale. This change is expected to lower premiums for most policyholders. According to Altmaier, Citizens Insurance customers will be among the first to benefit from the new law. The company had planned to increase rates by around 8.2%, but they have changed the rate hike to just 3.5% due to the law.

Property owners who have difficulty collecting hurricane damage claims might need to turn to an attorney for assistance. In some cases, the attorney might be able to negotiate a fair settlement without going to court. In other circumstances, litigation may be necessary to obtain the full amount.

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