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Consumer Alert:

01/24/2006

Gallagher Announces Reforms to Help Protect and Prepare Floridians for Catastrophes

 

 

CONTACT:
Tami Torres or Bob Lotane
(850) 413-2842
 
TALLAHASSEE – Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, today announced the next round of homeowner-friendly insurance reforms to better protect and prepare Floridians for a catastrophic event, and to empower them with information they need to shop for property coverage.  The new reforms, initiated by a special committee created by Gallagher, include consumer coverage checklists and quick check guides to help Floridians purchase adequate coverage to rebuild and to repair their homes after a catastrophe.
 
"I have been fighting for these changes for many years," said Gallagher, who heard consumers repeatedly say during town hall meetings around the state that clear, easy-to-read insurance policies were needed. "One area where our state must improve is in preparedness – these changes will help consumers better understand what their homeowners policies really cover, and empower them to be better prepared before the next storm hits."
 
In the wake of the 2004 hurricanes, state lawmakers gave Gallagher the authority to appoint a Standard Personal Lines Advisory Committee to develop a checklist and a standard Florida homeowners policy.  The committee, comprised of ten members, began its work in August 2005. 
 
The committee developed a Consumer Quick Check Guide that outlines specific terms and coverage limits generally provided under most homeowners' insurance policies.  Gallagher said this guide will be a valuable tool to consumers when shopping for coverage.  The committee also drafted a Checklist of Coverage, which offers homeowners a comprehensive checklist to use when purchasing property coverage.  The committee further recommended that insurance agents be required to review this checklist with their customers at the time policies are purchased. 
 
Gallagher said that, "Today's reforms are important, and they will make a difference, but we must do more. I have proposed a comprehensive reform package that will provide immediate rate relief and long-term market stability and homeowner protections.
That plan remains my priority for the upcoming legislative session."  The comprehensive plan Gallagher is advocating is needed to bring financial relief to homeowners, better prepare families for catastrophic storms, and help stabilize rates and improve coverage options for homeowners.
 
Following the 2004 hurricane season, Gallagher also advocated consumer protections which were approved by state lawmakers, including a single-season hurricane deductible, clear disclosure of deductible amounts in insurance policies, and a prohibition of insurance companies withholding claim payments for depreciation
Gallagher's committee also recommended further work in the development of a standard homeowners policy, citing technical and legal resources were needed to properly address policy provisions written because of case law.
 
The committee's recommendations were submitted today to state lawmakers.
 
The new Consumer Quick Check Guides and Checklist of Coverage and the committee's report  are available to Floridians on the Department of Financial Services (DFS) website at www.fldfs.com/StandardPersonalLinesAdvisoryCommittee/
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. Gallagher also serves as the State Fire Marshal.
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Members of Standard Personal Lines Advisory Committee
      
• Rick Mahler, Deputy Chief of Staff, Department of Financial Services, Chair
• Joel P. Curran, Towerhill Insurance Group, chief underwriting officer and senior manager.
• Jim Graganella, Capital Preferred & Southern Fidelity Insurance Companies. President / CEO.
• Hector Fortun, Fortun Insurance. 
• Bruce A. Baker, USI Insurance Services of Florida, Inc.
• Rick Suarez, Miami, Florida, proprietor of Ready Windows.
• Arnold Whisenant, Jacksonville, Florida, retired. 
• Dr. Elizabeth Beard Goldsmith, Florida State University, Professor.  National Association of Insurance Commissioner's Consumer Representative.
• Richard C. Koon, Office of Insurance Regulation, Senior Management Analyst, Director Policy Forms.  
• Steve Burgess, Insurance Consumer Advocate