Weathering the results: months after suffering through a record four hurricanes, the Sunshine State's insurance industry continues to pick up the pieces.Key Points
* Florida's unusual hurricane season Hurricane season refers to a period in a year when hurricanes usually form. For more information see: Tropical cyclone#Times of formation.
For a lists of past seasons, see:
* Through November 2004, the Florida Department Florida is a department (departamento) of Uruguay. Population and Demographics
As of the census of 2004, there were 68,181 people and 21,938 households in the department. The average household size was 3.1. For every 100 females, there were 100.4 males. of Financial Services The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
Please [ improve this article] or discuss the issue on the talk page. had received roughly 1,000 requests from homeowners for insurance mediation.
* An estimated 20,000 Florida homeowners will have multiple deductibles.
* Most observers were skeptical of the notion that the hurricanes could reverse the nation's migratory migratory /mi·gra·to·ry/ (mi´grah-tor?e)
1. roving or wandering.
2. of, pertaining to, or characterized by migration; undergoing periodic migration.
emanating from or pertaining to migration. patterns.
Nestled in the heart of Florida's "Treasure Coast The Treasure Coast is a term for a region in the U.S. state of Florida stretching from Hobe Sound in the south through Sebastian in the north, including the coastal counties of Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin. "--a stretch of shoreline once best known as the purported hiding place for troves of buried pirate booty--Stuart bears all the tell-tale signs of a typical Sunbelt edge city.
Towering palms stand guard at gated communities, behind whose thatch of foliage lie scores of prefabricated homes encircling encircling (en·serˑ·k manmade ponds. Cul-de-sacs and golf courses dot the landscape, while the city's wide avenues are lined by a procession of strip malls whose awnings are adorned a·dorn
tr.v. a·dorned, a·dorn·ing, a·dorns
1. To lend beauty to: "the pale mimosas that adorned the favorite promenade" Ronald Firbank.
2. with Christmas lights year-round. Signs weathered by hundreds of Florida thunderstorms thunderstorms
a storm characterized by thunder and lightning caused by strong rising air currents; identified as agents of animal disease because of their involvement causing (1) spasmodic colic; (2) lightning strike; (3) injuries of cattle acquired in stampedes initiated by storms. invite passersby to enjoy scuba lessons, yacht rentals and the latest in bait and tackle technology.
But when State Farm adjuster Todd Douglas arrived in Stuart Sept. 8, he said, he found a site altogether different from the idyllic seaside paradise that greeted him two months later. Having just been battered by the landfall land·fall
1. The act or an instance of sighting or reaching land after a voyage or flight.
2. The land sighted or reached after a voyage or flight. of Category 2 Hurricane Frances This article is about the Atlantic hurricane of 2004; for other storms of the same name, see Hurricane Frances (disambiguation)
Hurricane Frances was the sixth named storm, the fourth hurricane, and the third major hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. , Stuart was closer to a wasteland. None of the county had power, and there was hardly an intersection with a working street light. Curfews forced residents into their homes by dusk, as local officials feared looting, and the lack of refrigeration refrigeration, process for drawing heat from substances to lower their temperature, often for purposes of preservation. Refrigeration in its modern, portable form also depends on insulating materials that are thin yet effective. meant even store-bought provisions often couldn't be trusted as safe. With most of the county's gas stations suffering shortages, an 18-wheel gasoline tanker Gasoline tankers came into use after the demise of the coal-carrying collier, which provided coal for ship's enines. With the advent of ships which ran on oil and used on board gasoline motors, and warships with aircraft which required gasoline, the gasoline tanker was created as a truck was parked behind State Farm's office on U.S. Highway 1, so that adjusters such as Douglas could fill up their vehicles and get out to survey the damage.
"On a hurricane, mobilizing a team starts even before it hits. Once they predict landfall, the section managers and the powers-that-be start looking at who's available to go," Douglas said, noting that his team was working a hail storm in Amarillo, Texas “Amarillo” redirects here. For other uses, see Amarillo (disambiguation).
Amarillo is the 14th-largest city in the U.S. state of Texas and the seat of Potter County. , when they got the call that Frances was approaching. "Just before it hits, they grab up every available hotel room they can, so we have somewhere to stay when they bring us in. You come into the office the first day, and they just give you a healthy stack of files and tell you to go to town on them."
What neither Douglas nor the more than 100 other adjusters in Stuart knew at the time, was a mere 20 days later, Mother Nature would send another surprise hurtling toward the Treasure Coast. This storm, Hurricane Jeanne This article deals with the 2004 Hurricane Jeanne. For information on other storms of the same name, see Tropical Storm Jeanne (disambiguation).
Hurricane Jeanne was the tenth named storm, the seventh hurricane, and the fifth major hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. , was the last of a record four hurricanes to strike the state last season. Douglas was still in Stuart more than two months later, his only reprieve having been when he and his team were told to head to Tampa to get out of Jeanne's path.
Having once worked a hail storm in Minneapolis for seven months, Douglas said he's accustomed to the lifestyle, noting that life has been easier since his wife and 2-year-old daughter began accompanying him on these sojourns.
"My wife, at first, didn't care for this at all," Douglas said. "She was a teacher, and she was used to working. When she had our little girl, she agreed to come on the road with me, only until our gift started school. But it's working out great. She makes friends wherever we go. My wife's met another woman with a daughter about the same age, so they've been running around, going to the beach, bookstores and the libraries."
With State Farm's Stuart adjuster staff whittled down to about 50 from the 100 who started in the city after Frances, Douglas was preparing to wrap up his stint, with a Dec. 12 target date to return home to Texas for the holidays.
"At this point, we're probably about 98% inspected," Douglas said in November. "All of the old stuff has been looked at, though we're still getting new claims trickling in. People might have, like, a fence damage and not turn it in initially, but after getting an estimate that was a lot more than they expected, they think, 'Well, maybe we ought to turn it in.'"
'This Can't Be Happening'
Roughly 100 miles north of Stuart, the Treasure Coast gives way to the "Space Coast"--so-named for the presence of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), civilian agency of the U.S. federal government with the mission of conducting research and developing operational programs in the areas of space exploration, artificial satellites (see satellite, artificial), . The scene is much the same, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Paul Corbley, who manages Daytona Beach-based broker Brown & Brown's Titusville and Melbourne operations. But while Melbourne residents, who include a good number of "refugees" who fled Miami and points south after Hurricane Andrew This article is about the 1992 hurricane; there was also a Tropical Storm Andrew during the 1986 Atlantic hurricane season.
Hurricane Andrew is the second-most-destructive hurricane in U.S. history, and the last of three Category 5 hurricanes that made U.S. hit in 1992, were perhaps better prepared than most to weather the storms, few were ready for what was to come.
"Emotionally, it was very taxing on everyone in ways that I haven't seen before, and I've seen more than my share of storms," Corbley said. "Here, we'd just barely dodged Charley, and then Frances hit, and just as you're starting to clean up from that, you hear the reports that Jeanne is on its way. The feeling is one of 'this can't be happening' ... but it is."
For Corbley, the immediate fear was whether affected clients would even be able to get in touch with their brokers and agents, given massive outages of both power and phone service across the county. Striking over the Labor Day Labor Day, holiday celebrated in the United States and Canada on the first Monday in September to honor the laborer. It was inaugurated by the Knights of Labor in 1882 and made a national holiday by the U.S. Congress in 1894. weekend, Frances left Brown & Brown initially without power for the Monday following the storm--which, Corbley noted, was a scheduled day off. He said if the firm hadn't gotten power back by Tuesday; they were ready to work in tents in the parking lot as part of the company's disaster preparedness plan.
"We were without binding authority for 22 days, which was very tough on us, and clients who expected to have renewals bound didn't necessarily understand what the holdup was," Corbley said, adding that he remained curious about what changes would be seen, particularly in commercial coverages, as the Jan. 1 renewal season approached.
The trends in pricing before the storms had been softening and, as of November, there had been no contraction in capacity, Corbley said. "What we have certainly seen is a spike in interest among our clients for more coverage, particularly for things like business income and contents, and to stay abreast of changes in property values," he said.
While he believed insurers have "generally been very responsible and responsive" following the storms, Corbley said, there were a few cases that he would term "horror stories" where claims simply weren't getting paid appropriately. "Usually, you make one phone call to the Department of Financial Services, and that clears that up real fast," Corbley said.
Reviving a process he introduced following Hurricane Andrew, when he served as the state's insurance commissioner, Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher
Tom Gallagher (born February 3 1944) is an American politician from the U.S. state of Florida. began mediation meetings between policyholders and insurers in late October 2004. Centers were opened in Punta Gorda Punta Gorda may refer to:
To Litigate or Not to Litigate
Pensacola-based attorney Samuel Bearman, who filed more than 50 so-called "bad faith" suits in the wake of 1995's Hurricane Opal Hurricane Opal was a major hurricane that formed in the Gulf of Mexico in September 1995.  Opal was the 9th hurricane of the abnormally active 1995 Atlantic hurricane season. , which struck along Florida's Gulf Coast, agreed that contacting an attorney should "be saved for the last option" when it conies to resolution of storm claims.
"You have to try to see what the insured can do on his own first," Bearman said. "The squeaky wheel The squeaky wheel is the central concept in the bon mot "It is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil." or "...gets the grease." The "squeaky wheel" may be any problem, irritant, or other attention-getter. seems to get the grease, and so, the insured needs to stay in touch with the adjuster to get a response as to what he thinks in terms of the claim, and get a final decision from the adjuster. If that final decision is not acceptable, then it's time It's Time was a successful political campaign run by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) under Gough Whitlam at the 1972 election in Australia. Campaigning on the perceived need for change after 23 years of conservative (Liberal Party of Australia) government, Labor put forward a to consider getting an attorney."
Thus far, Bearman has filed only one suit based on bad faith claims arising out of Hurricane Ivan This article is about the Atlantic hurricane of 2004. For other storms of the same name, see Tropical Storm Ivan (disambiguation).
Hurricane Ivan was the strongest hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. , which hit Pensacola on Sept. 16 before tearing through the other Gulf states. He is preparing to file eight more suits, and has another 10 he expects to file eventually, he added. In his first suit, Bearman's clients charge United Services Automobile Association Automobile Association may refer to:
"The wind adjusters seem to blame flood, and the flood adjusters seem to blame wind, and that happened with Opal as well," Bearman said. "The adjusters are not handling things in a timely manner, in terms of getting responses to the insureds as to the insureds' claims."
Gallagher set Nov. 22 as the deadline for insurers to assess, process and settle hurricane claims filed by Oct. 21 as a result of Tropical Storm tropical storm
A cyclonic storm having winds ranging from approximately 48 to 121 kilometers (30 to 75 miles) per hour.
tropical storm Bonnie bon·ny also bon·nie
adj. bon·ni·er, bon·ni·est Scots
1. Physically attractive or appealing; pretty.
2. Excellent. or hurricanes Charley and Frances. For claims filed by Nov. 8 as a result of hurricanes Ivan or Jeanne, the deadline was Dec. 8. Bearman, however, remained skeptical of what impact the new deadlines would have.
"As I understand it, within 30 days of filing the claim, the adjuster is to provide the insurance company's response, which would be nice, but I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. that there are any teeth to support it," Bearman said in November. "It's only now that the insureds are realizing, based on the final decisions by the insurance companies, that they're not going to be paid reasonably and fairly."
Among other concerns is how insurers were treating deductibles, given that many areas of the state were hit by more than one storm. The Florida Legislature The Florida Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Florida. The Florida Constitution mandates a bicameral state legislature with an upper house Florida Senate of 40 members and a lower Florida House of Representatives of 120 members. was planning a special session for December, requested by Gallagher, to consider whether insurers should be required to give homeowners the option of a deductible on a per-event basis, or one deductible for an entire season. An estimated 20,000 Florida homeowners were expected to have multiple deductibles, according to Gov. Jeb Bush's office, which estimated the total impact of second and subsequent deductibles at between $150 million and $300 million.
According to Douglas, any State Farm policyholder who reported initial damage with Frances and additional damage with Jeanne, was treated as a single file. Additionally, he noted, due to the relatively high homeowners deductibles in the state, many people chose not to report damage after Frances, but subsequently reported more extensive damage after Jeanne. In either scenario, the company would treat the issue as a single deductible.
"Now, a lot of the new claims came in with additional damage, but unless they had very little damage from Frances and then catastrophic damage from Jeanne--which we really didn't see--we didn't try to separate it," Douglas said. "That would be the only way I could see where we'd keep two files open with two losses, two adjustments and two deductibles."
Given a shortage of contractors, the state also revived an emergency rule originally instituted after Hurricane Andrew, and effective until Dec. 31, that prohibited insurance companies from canceling insurance policies until 60 days after repairs were completed.
"For the most part, contractors have been so busy that, of all the claims that I've worked, I've really only met with one, because very few policyholders have actually secured contractors already," Douglas said." They may have gotten several bids for the work, but it's going to be a while."
Still, despite the inevitable headaches brought on by an unprecedented storm season, most observers were skeptical of the notion that the hurricanes could reverse the nation's migratory patterns. The lure of warm winters, palm trees and crystal blue waters <includeonly></includeonly>
Blue Waters, also known as ASP Blue Waters due to sponsorship reasons, are a Namibian football (soccer) club from Walvis Bay. They play in the country's highest division, the Namibia Premier League. sometimes makes it easy to forget the downside, even for those whose job is to chronicle that downside.
"After Christmas, they'll bring some people back and, heck, I might come back, too," Douglas said, taking a sip of his iced coffee as he gazed off into the Florida sunshine. "I really like it here. I could sure think of worse jobs than this."
The working environment for insurers and adjusters in Florida is influenced by the following actions taken by the Florida Department of Financial Services:
* Instituted a moratorium on insurance companies canceling or non-renewing homeowners during hurricane season or because they have filed a storm claim.
* Placed a 10% cap on what public adjusters can collect on a homeowners insurance claim and prohibited them from charging fees up front.
* Required Florida's health insurers and HMOs to waive restrictions on prescription refills to enable citizens to fill prescriptions in advance.
* Set deadlines for insurance companies to respond to policyholders and process claims.
* Established a mediation program to help storm victims and insurers resolve claim disputes.
Source: Florida Department of Financial Services
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