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

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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.

Insurance companies are required to notify homeowners whose claims are in dispute of their right to mediation.  Once this notification has been made the company has 21 days to settle the claim, otherwise the policyholder can call the Department of Financial Services to request that mediation be scheduled.  Mediation can help a hurricane victim avoid the lengthy and costly option of going to court.  The mediation is non-binding in those cases where the homeowner chooses not to settle.  Court-approved mediators are provided through the Collins Center for Public Policy.

Gallagher is confident that extending the mediation program to victims of the 2005 hurricane will yield additional positive results, much like the stories below: 

  • Mrs. Iona Boykin, a victim of hurricane Ivan in Pensacola, said the mediation program, “…got things moving on my claim.  You have to understand that in the wake of losing everything you can’t think straight.  After I went through the mediation, things moved real well.”

  • Cheryl Anderson went through mediation in Jupiter and said, “The people at the mediation center saved me from a nervous breakdown.  They took what was wrong and made it right.”

  • Pauline Kaiser went through mediation in Punta Gorda to resolve losses from Hurricane Charley and said, “The program helped me get through an incredibly difficult period.”

  • Mel Zey said his mediation in Orlando was a very positive, helpful experience:  “I encouraged all of my neighbors who had hurricane damage to make use of the program.”

Storm victims can learn more about mediation by calling 1-800-22-STORM.

In addition to the new Davie mediation center, the following offices are also conducting mediation sessions for Floridians who are having trouble settling their hurricane insurance claims:

Jupiter Hurricane Mediation Center
900 South US-1, Suite 207
Jupiter, FL  33477 

Orlando
Orange County Bar Association
880 North Orange Avenue
Orlando, FL  32801 

Pensacola
Schofield Law Firm
25 West Cedar Street, Suite 450
Pensacola, FL  32502 

Plant City
Dickerson Law Firm
Jim Williams
110 East Reynolds Street, Suite 203
Plant City, FL  33563 

Punta Gorda
Wotitzky Mediation Firm
407 East Marion Avenue, Suite 103
Punta Gorda, FL  33950

More than 500,000 property insurance claims were filed during the 2005 hurricane season.