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Action 9 Investigates Insurance Delays

3/25/2013
WFTV.com

Imagine a fire destroyed your home and then the insurance company wouldn't tell you whether you're covered. That's the nightmare some local homeowners are facing. 

Flames tore through a Daytona Beach home after a contractor's equipment accidentally started the fire.

Ron Bruvvese lost a home and his belongings, and the blaze killed his dog.

Bruvvese filed a claim with Universal Property and Casualty the same week. That was nearly six months ago.

"I just don't understand the holdup. It's been pure hell and at my age, I never thought I'd be going through anything like this," said Bruvvese.

The fire department found the cause was accidental. 

Bruvvese said he expected some delays but nothing like this.

"I just have no idea. You pay insurance, and when you need them, they're not there for you," said Bruvvese.

Ron has a lot of company. Action 9 checked with state regulators, and more than 370 customers in Florida blamed Universal for serious claim delays since 2010.

Oviedo homeowner Damaris Marrero is one of them.

"We're nine months into this, and we haven't heard from them," said Marrero.

Last July, a fire gutted her kitchen. Again, investigators called it accidental.

Marrero said Universal keeps delaying her claim and her new kitchen.

Last month, an Action 9 investigation found Universal denied claims based on credit history from years ago, a practice challenged by the state's insurance consumer advocate.

Robin Westcott also has a big problem with claims delayed for months.

"Six or seven months, you have lives that have been displaced. Why would that be acceptable to anyone?" said Westcott.

She wants the Department of Insurance Regulation to review the company's claim process. 

One day after Action 9 interviewed Bruvvese, Universal approved his claim and he had a full settlement check that same week.

"I just want my house back," he said.

Universal told Action 9 there was no delay in Bruvvese's insurance claim, but the investigation required additional time.

The company also denied there is any pattern of complaints and said the vast majority of claims are processed in a timely matter.