Volume 1, Number 47, November 22, 2004
In a few days Floridians will gather with family and friends to celebrate
Thanksgiving. This day of tradition in America gives us an opportunity to give
thanks for all the benefits of this land of plenty, and of course, for our
-- Tom Gallagher
DFS HURRICANE STATUS REPORT
Orlando Mediation Center
ESTIMATED INSURED DAMAGES
(Estimates based on data call through the Office of Insurance Regulation)
Hurricane Charley: $7.5 Billion
Hurricane Frances: $4.5 Billion
Hurricane Ivan: $4 Billion
Hurricane Jeanne: $4 Billion
Insured Losses: $20 Billion
Number of claims filed to date: 1.4 million
Expected number of claims: 2 million. One in every five homes statewide damaged.
Working with insurance
companies and policyholders to resolve cases involving multiple deductibles.
Placed a 10 percent cap on what public adjusters can collect on a homeowner’s 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.
Urged banks and credit unions to expedite loan applications, eliminate late fees on loans and waive ATM and check-cashing fees for storm victims.
deadlines for insurance companies to respond to policyholders and process
Established mediation program to give storm victims a no-cost way to quickly and fairly resolve claim disputes with their insurance company.
After each storm, mobile response units were deployed to impacted areas and mobile command centers were up and running within 72 hours of landfall.
More than 150 department employees have been in the field providing insurance help, with the assistance of 30 insurance experts from eight other states.
Department staff have assisted thousands of consumers in their communities, with a presence in more than 50 disaster recovery centers statewide.
There are as many as 40,000 adjusters working storm claims. Of this number, 16,100 emergency adjuster licenses were issued to expedite the payment of insurance claims.
INSURANCE COMPANIES SUBPOENAED
TALLAHASSEE-Investigative subpoenas were issued today to eleven insurance companies in Florida by state regulators and investigators. The subpoenas require insurance companies to submit records and documents related to their contractual relationships and commission arrangements.
“We need to determine if insurance companies and brokers are manipulating the law for financial gain rather than what is in the best interest of the insurance-buying public,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “We will certainly take immediate action if we uncover any evidence of bid-rigging, kickbacks or improper fees.”
Subpoenas were issued to: National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, PA; American International Specialty Lines Insurance Co.; Continental Casualty Co.; Lexington Insurance Co.; Scottsdale Insurance Co.; Federal Insurance Co.; Ace American Insurance Co.; Zurich American Insurance Co.; St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co.; State Farm Florida Insurance Co.; and Twin City Fire Insurance Co.
“The kinds of practices and problems recently uncovered elsewhere often increase the costs to businesses, and in the end, to consumers. We need to determine if that is the case here in Florida,” said Kevin McCarty, Commissioner of the Office of Insurance Regulation. “If it is taking place, we need to rectify the situation.”
Gallagher applauded the coordinated efforts of the Florida Department of Financial Services, the Office of Insurance Regulation and the Attorney General’s Office.
Today’s subpoenas stem from a legal task force Gallagher established last month to investigate whether any of the activities outlined in New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s recent civil suit are taking place among insurance brokerages and companies in Florida. The suit alleges civil and criminal misconduct involving insurance brokers steering business to insurance companies for a commission.
Responding to a few complaints that some
insurance company adjusters may be discouraging consumers from contacting
the Department of Financial Services for help with a complaint or with
filing a hurricane claim, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher
today issued an industry warning that such actions could result in license
suspension or revocation.
"Although we have received a limited number of complaints, the nature of the allegations are so serious I believe it warrants a public warning,” Gallagher said. “I will not tolerate the rights of Florida’s citizens being impeded in any way. Filing a complaint or request for the department’s help in no way inhibits the ability of claims adjusters to settle claims with an insured, nor does it delay or prolong the process unless someone is acting in bad faith.”
Some hurricane victims have reported that adjusters have warned that filing a complaint with the department would slow the claims process. Adjusters engaging in this activity may include insurance company adjusters, independent adjusters or catastrophe adjusters.
Using threats or coercion to dissuade Floridians from filing a complaint with the department violates the provisions of the Unfair Insurance Trade Practices Act as well as the rules regulating the ethical conduct of adjusters. The department can suspend or revoke the license of an adjuster who violates the Insurance Code or department rule, or impose a fine of up to $3,500.
Consumers who need assistance filing a hurricane claim or want to file a complaint should call 1-800-22-STORM (1-800-227-8676) or go to www.MyFloridaCFO.com and click on “Report Insurance Fraud.”
PASCO COUNTY MAN ACCUSED OF FILING FALSE INSURANCE CLAIMS
A Pasco County man is charged with insurance fraud, grand theft and filing a false police report after he told investigators that he was mistaken when he reported a car and household belongings stolen when they had been shipped to Hawaii, and that another car had not been stolen but repossessed.
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the department's Fraud Busters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.