Volume 1 Number 46
November 15, 2004










TEXT VERSION

 

 

GALLAGHER VISITS MEDIATION CENTERS, GIVES STATUS REPORT ON HURRICANE RESPONSE

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher visited mediation centers in Punta Gorda and Orlando, which are now open and set up to help hurricane victims resolve claim disputes with insurance companies. More than 600 consumers have requested mediation to resolve a dispute. The first round of meetings have been scheduled to begin Nov. 22.

“For storm victims, getting their insurance claims settled so they can rebuild their homes is the crucial first step on the road to recovery,” Gallagher said. “We’re hoping to make that process easier and faster by offering mediation for consumers having disputes with their insurance companies.”

The mediation centers located at the Charlotte County Justice Center, 350 E. Marion Avenue in Punta Gorda and 8403 South Park Circle, Building 600, Suite 655 in Orlando offer a non-binding and non-adversarial claims settlement process for storm victims that is available at no cost to the consumer.

The mediation program, initiated by Gallagher, establishes a dispute resolution process for citizens who need help with resolving hurricane claims prior to pursuing other more costly options such as going to court. Mediation meetings will be scheduled and facilitated by court-certified mediators provided through the Collins Center for Public Policy. Nearly 45 mediators will be available to handle mediation requests.

Under the program, if a policyholder disputes a claim settlement offer, the insurance company is required to notify the policyholder of his or her right to mediation. The insurance company will then have 21 days to resolve the claim before a mediation meeting can be scheduled. Policyholders can also contact the department at 1-800-22-STORM to request mediation.

According to Gallagher, who was insurance commissioner when Hurricane Andrew devastated Homestead in 1992, more than eighty percent of claims referred to mediation reach settlement, and more than 90 percent reach partial settlement.

An additional mediation site is now open at 900 U.S. Highway One, River Plaza, Suite 207 in Jupiter, and at least one other site will open in Pensacola to serve panhandle residents affected by Hurricane Ivan. Gallagher plans to visit the Jupiter site within the next two weeks.

Storm victims can learn more about mediation services by logging on to the department’s website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com. Click on the illustration to the left to access the “Mediation Program” brochure or call the hurricane hotline at 1-800-22-STORM.

Gallagher also gave a hurricane status report on insurance companies’ response to storm victims coping with the recent storms. Following a recent emergency rule setting deadlines for processing claims, the department has received nearly 17 percent fewer calls from consumers experiencing delays when dealing with an adjuster. In addition, out of approximately 12,000 consumers who have complained about adjuster delays, more than 75 percent have since received a response from their insurance company, with one of two positive outcomes: an adjuster visit was scheduled or settlement offered.
 

The skyline for November is beautiful Lakeland in Polk County.