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Task Force on Citizens Property Insurance Claims Handling and Resolution

News Article

Citizens officials say insurer better prepared this season

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

After hurricanes damaged their homes during the 2004 and 2005 storm seasons, tens of thousands of Florida homeowners found out that their insurer, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., wasn't up to the task.

Officials with the state's largest property insurer are the first to say they could have done better. But in 2004, Citizens had a skeleton staff of claims supervisors and 350 contracted field adjusters to handle 121,000 claims. Many homeowners had to wait months to see an adjuster.

Citizens, which now has 1.3 million policyholders, insists it's ready for whatever the 2007 storm season brings. It has contracts with 45 adjusting firms with 6,000 adjusters. A field staff of 60 supervisors would oversee the handling of a catastrophic event.

Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Bob Milligan said Citizens appears to be well-prepared, based on documents he has seen.

Milligan is heading a task force investigating Citizens' claims-handling practices. One of the issues being reviewed is training for adjusters. Milligan said the task force wants to ensure that the mostly out-of-state contract adjusters are familiar with Florida laws and regulations and the particulars of adjusting a hurricane claim.

Many of the complaints against Citizens from the 2004 and 2005 seasons stemmed from faulty estimates by adjusters who were unfamiliar with handling a hurricane or the requirements of the state building code.

Homeowner Tamara Clausen, who Citizens officials admit received only a fraction of the compensation she was entitled to for storm damage, said her problems began with adjusters who didn't understand Florida law. For example, one gave her 50 percent compensation for her damaged roof, even though state building codes call for the roof to be replaced if damage is more than 25 percent.

Rocky Scott, a Citizens spokesman, said adjusting firms not based in the state will be required for the first time to provide a training seminar for contract adjusters before they set foot in Florida.