State Fire Marshal Gallagher with firefighters
Volume 3 Number 5
January 30, 2006

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This Saturday I will be hosting a town hall meeting to assist Floridians still recovering from last year’s hurricanes. The meeting will be held on February 4th, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Hialeah City Hall, on 501 Palm Avenue, in Hialeah.   

Folks who sustained hurricane losses from this year’s storms and who are still having trouble settling their insurance claims should attend this meeting.  We are hearing from too many people who are still having a tough time recovering from the storms.  

I’ll be bringing a team of consumer specialists to the meeting to work with policyholders individually.  They will be able to open a consumer complaint file or to update an open case.  They will also be able to contact insurers directly in an effort to get these claims handled quickly and fairly. One important thing to remember - bring your insurance papers if you will be requesting assistance.  For more information, call our storm hotline at 1-800-22-STORM or go to www.MyFloridaCFO.com.

I hosted similar town hall meetings around the state after the 2004 storms, and we were able to help a lot of people.  We also learned what type of problems were still being experienced so we could find ways to solve them.  The feedback we got was invaluable but often heartbreaking.

Among the many new reforms we were able to institute, insurers are no longer able to charge more than one hurricane deductible to Floridians hit by multiple storms, and insurers must now provide clear disclosure on the actual cost of a hurricane deductible in their insurance policies. 

Policyholders can no longer be paid the lower actual cash value for repairs and contents but must be given the full replacement cost up front.  Also, insurers are now prohibited from non-renewing homeowners’ policies on Floridians whose homes have not been repaired and the amount of time insurers have to begin processing storm claims has been expedited.   

If you need help please come out this Saturday, and if you know someone who needs help please let them know about the meeting.



GALLAGHER CONTINUES WORK TO HELP STORM VICTIMS

Successful mediation program extended to resolve 2005 insurance disputes
 

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced that mediation is now available to homeowners who suffered damage from the 2005 hurricanes and have not been able settle their insurance claims.  The program is free to policyholders and seeks to achieve a quick and fair settlement for storm victims.  Starting Feb. 1, a new mediation center will begin operations at 3544 South University Drive in Davie. 

“My number one priority continues to be helping Floridians recover from two unprecedented hurricane seasons,” Gallagher said. “This program has proven results in helping families recover from the 2004 storm season, and I know it will help thousands more still seeking assistance after the 2005 storms.”

Gallagher initiated the mediation program in the aftermath of multiple hurricanes in 2004. Of 12,000 requests for mediation, 93 percent were settled successfully.
CONTINUED


 


GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES REFORMS TO HELP PROTECT AND PREPARE FLORIDIANS FOR CATASTROPHES

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, 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 homeowners policy.  The committee, comprised of ten members, began its work in August 2005.  CONTINUED


 


SUPPORT BUILDS FOR NATIONAL CATASTROPHE PLAN

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, said he welcomed and is encouraged by new support from both the public and private sectors for creating a national catastrophic property insurance fund. A national catastrophe fund is one of several solutions Gallagher proposed last November to strengthen Florida’s insurance market and to better protect homeowners.  Gallagher first proposed the creation of a national catastrophe fund more than 13 years ago.

“Following Hurricane Andrew, I saw the need for our nation to prepare for catastrophic events.  I’m encouraged to see growing support and momentum building for a national catastrophe plan,” Gallagher said.  “With 115 major disaster declarations in more than 30 different states over the past two years, a national safety net will better protect and serve homeowners across the country if a devastating catastrophe strikes.” 
 CONTINUED

 


 


STATEMENT FROM TOM GALLAGHER ON
AUDITOR GENERAL’S REPORT ON CITIZENS PROPERTY


“Reforming Florida's insurance system, including Citizens' Property Insurance, to meet the new challenges created in the wake of unprecedented hurricane seasons remains my top priority. The report by the Auditor General will assist the legislature in implementing the reforms that I, along with the Governor and other members of the Cabinet, have been calling for since last year.

“I am pleased that many of the reforms I have recommended of Citizens over the last year are now also being supported by the Auditor General, including stricter ethical standards, and greater financial oversight and accountability.

“With additional support from an audit called for by the Legislature last year, I'm confident that state lawmakers will join me in approving reforms that will result in greater transparency, oversight and accountability of Citizens.”
 

 


TWO VOLUSIA COUNTY BUSINESSMEN CHARGED WITH FRAUD

TALLAHASSEE—Two Volusia County business owners are facing felony charges after committing workers' compensation fraud. One failed to provide workers' compensation coverage while the second submitted a fraudulent workers' compensation insurance application.

Barry J. Schultz, 51, owner and operator of Sand Piper Concepts in New Smyrna Beach, and Fredy Cedeno, 38, owner and operator of All About Buildings, Inc. in Orange City, were arrested on one count each of workers' compensation fraud following an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud. The charges will be prosecuted in Volusia County State Attorney's Office.

“Employers who evade paying premiums put their workers at risk of not having the coverage they need if they are injured on the job,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the department. “Evading premiums also shifts the financial burden to employers who do the right thing and follow the law.”  CONTINUED