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Volume 6, No. 9 - September 2017

News You Can Use


- Updating you on what's going on

CFO Jimmy Patronis and Insurance Experts Travel to Help After Irma

"Hurricane Irma was a storm unlike anything we've seen before, and it impacted much of our great state. Recovery efforts are already under way, and every available local, state and federal resource is working collaboratively to help Floridians get back on their feet quickly.Default Irma

This month, I traveled the state in tandem with Florida's fire service personnel, and I could not be prouder of the lifesaving work I've seen firsthand. These men and women are working around the clock to bring families to safety, far after the storm has passed.

Our State Fire Marshal unit serves as the lead agency for Florida's firefighting and urban search and rescue emergency support functions, and they have done a phenomenal job of coordinating assets from across Florida and the entire United States. From New York to California, Louisiana and Tennessee, law enforcement teams have sent their search and rescue teams to join Florida's efforts, and we appreciate their robust support.

With two category 4 hurricanes hitting the American mainland in such quick succession, we are in an unprecedented recovery situation. It will take time, but Florida will recover and be stronger than ever. Irma 2

If your home or business was damaged by the hurricane, you may have questions about your insurance coverage or how to file a claim. My office runs Florida's Insurance Consumer Helpline, and we are standing by to take your calls. Call us at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) to talk one-on-one with an insurance expert who can help explain your policy or even get you the contact information for your insurance company. We also have a Hurricane Irma insurance resources website that you can access at www.myfloridacfo.com.

I'm doing everything I can to ensure that Floridians get swift handling of their post-storm claims. If you run into an issue, let us help."

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CFO Patronis Tours Hurricane Irma Damage in the Florida Keys While Spreading Post-Storm Recovery and Insurance Resources

Keys Irma 1

CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis toured the impacts of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys while joining first responders and community members in their efforts to provide food, water and supplies to local residents. CFO Patronis offered insurance resources to residents impacted by the storm as residents made their way back to their homes. Any Floridian who needs assistance with insurance-related issues after Hurricane Irma is encouraged to call the Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236). Floridians can also find Hurricane Irma insurance resources on www.myfloridacfo.com.

 

CFO Patronis and Commissioner Altmaier: Florida Insurance Industry Preparing for Hurricane Irma

Prior to the landfall of Hurricane Irma, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier hosted a conference call with insurance company executives to confirm that companies are prepared to meet Floridians’ needs following Hurricane Irma.

CFO Patronis said, “Florida’s decade-long hurricane-free streak offered the insurance industry years to prepare, to build reserves, and to update technology. Florida’s policyholders fully expect that the insurance companies they entrust to protect their homes will be there during their time of need, and we’ll do everything possible to protect Florida’s policyholders throughout the entire post-storm process.”

Insurance Commissioner Altmaier said, “Consumer protection is our number one priority as Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida. The Office is dedicated to constantly monitoring the financial health of insurers, and in the coming days, we will be available around the clock to address any insurer issues.”

Keys Irma 2

Nearly 50 insurance company representatives were invited to participate in the call. Topics included: post-storm claims reporting, the availability of insurance adjusters, and homeowners’ abilities to file claims when traditional communication lines are down.

CFO Patronis confirmed that there are nearly 200,000 individuals currently licensed to adjust hurricane damage claims in Florida. Insurance companies can appoint (contract with) these adjusters to ensure adequate post-storm availability. CFO Patronis stressed that insurance companies must be prepared and have an appropriate number of adjusters on staff to meet consumers’ post-storm needs.

Following the full impact of Hurricane Irma, insurance companies will be required to report daily claims information.

To help consumers with the filing of insurance claims when traditional telephone and Internet lines may be down, the Department of Financial Services engaged in initial conversations to host an on-site insurance village following the storm’s landfall. Date and location will be determined by the future track and ultimate landfall of the storm.

Consumers who have questions about policy coverages or need help filing a claim can call Florida’s free Insurance Consumer Helpline, run by the Department of Financial Services, at 1-877-693-5236. 

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CONSUMER ALERT: Managing the Post-Storm Insurance Claims Filing Process

As Hurricane Irma continues to impact Florida, residents affected by the storm will soon begin the process of surveying damages to their property and belongings. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier have the following tips to help consumers as they begin the process of filing insurance claims on damaged property and belongings:

Tip 1: Locate all applicable insurance policies. This may include a homeowners’ policy, flood policy (flood coverage is not covered under a typical homeowners’ policy and is separate coverage) and an automobile policy (may cover damage to your car from flooding).

Tip 2: Document all damaged property and belongings. Take photos or shoot video footage before attempting any temporary repairs. When you file an insurance claim, you may be asked for visual documentation of damages. A photographic home inventory is a handy resource for this situation. A free smartphone app developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners called “MyHome Scr.APP.book” can help you take and store a room-by-room log of photos.

Tip 3: Contact your insurance company or insurance agent as soon as possible to report damages. Insurance policies require prompt reporting of claims, so it is important to act as soon as possible. If you need help finding your property insurance company’s website and contact information, click here. For a list of licensed insurance agents in Florida, click here.

Tip 4: Cover damaged areas that may be exposed to the elements in order to prevent further damage. Your insurance company may reimburse the expense of these temporary repairs, so keep all receipts. Remove water-logged and otherwise damaged items from your house to prevent the spread of mold, but document them and do not dispose of any damaged property until your insurance company adjuster has had an opportunity to survey it.

CFO Patronis’ toll-free Insurance Consumer Helpline (1-877-693-5236) can answer business and consumer-oriented insurance-related questions. CFO Patronis has launched a Hurricane Irma Insurance Resources webpage to provide comprehensive insurance information. Access the webpage by clicking on the “Hurricane Irma” button on www.myfloridacfo.com

The Office of Insurance Regulation also has additional storm-related materials online. Visit their website.

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CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis Offers Full Support to Ensure the Life Safety of Floridians

Governor Rick Scott took emergency actions requiring the immediate installation of life-safety features in assisted living facilities and nursing homes following eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County. Governor Scott’s emergency rules include a mandatory inspection of all newly-installed generators at assisted living facilities and nursing homes to be completed by the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office. In response to Governor Scott’s emergency actions, CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis issued the following statement on September 16, 2017:

CFO Patronis said, “First and foremost, my heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of those who died due to this entirely avoidable tragedy. While there’s nothing that can undo this disgraceful disaster, steps can and should be taken to ensure that it never happens again. Governor Scott's emergency rules demanding generators in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will help protect our vulnerable population during emergencies and natural disasters.

'Our office is working quickly to develop a thorough statewide inspection plan, as the emergency rules require. We look forward to providing all parties with the assistance and resources needed to ensure the safety of all Floridians, and to engaging in discussions about long-term solutions during the upcoming legislative session.”

Additional details regarding the State Fire Marshal’s inspection plan will be released in the coming days.

The emergency rules can be viewed below:

Florida Agency for Health Care Administration

Florida Department of Elder Affairs

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After Irma, Report Losses Quickly and Protect Yourself from Unlicensed Individuals

Following the landfall of Hurricane Irma, many Floridians are now assessing their homes and property for damage and taking steps to make temporary repairs to prevent additional damage before filing insurance claims. CFO Jimmy Patronis and

Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier encourage Floridians to be prompt in notifying their insurance companies and cautious of repair deals that sound too good to be true.

“If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is and could be fraud,” said CFO Patronis. “Opportunistic scammers may attempt to defraud Floridians following Hurricane Irma, and I encourage all Floridians to be vigilant in guarding against fraud. Floridians should report suspicious activity ASAP by calling 1-877-693-5246.”

Here are the top tips for consumers currently navigating the insurance claims process:

  • Notify your insurance company first. Many insurance companies have reporting deadlines, so it is important to act quickly. Take steps to make temporary repairs that prevent further damage, but remain in contact with your insurance company regarding any outside vendors that are brought in to make repairs. If you need help locating contact information for your insurance company,click here to access the Office of Insurance Regulation’s (OIR) directory. Helpline experts working the Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-693-5236 can also help Floridians locate their insurance company’s contact information.
  • While making temporary repairs, obtain the licensing or training credentials of all third-party vendors before signing any work agreements. Beware of fly-by-night repair companies and hire only licensed and reputable vendors. Use the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Contractor License lookup to make sure all contractors are properly licensed and bonded. Access DBPR’s licensee search here.
  • Fully review all documentation you are asked to sign and ask questions to make sure you understand the agreements you are signing. Ask specifically who is responsible for paying the vendor, you as the consumer, or your insurance company. For more information about how an assignment of benefits (AOB) for repairs works, visit the DFS “AOB” or Office “AOB Resources” webpages.
  • If considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster, ask for identification to verify that the adjuster is licensed. Visit CFO Patronis’ Hurricane Irma Insurance Resources website to verify the license of any Florida insurance agent or adjuster.
  • Understand how much a public insurance adjuster charges as well as what services are included before signing any contract.
  • If you suspect fraud or suspicious activity, report it immediately by calling 1-877-693-5236. You concerns will be promptly referred to insurance fraud investigators.

CFO Patronis’ Insurance Consumer Helpline (1-877-693-5236) is available from 8:00am EST to 5:00pm EST to answer all insurance-related questions for Floridians and businesses.

CONSUMER ALERT: FEMA/NFIP Announce Enhanced Claims Filing Process for Flood Insurance Policyholders Affected by Hurricane Irma

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is sharing guidance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) addressing the claims process for its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders affected by Hurricane Irma. Five bulletins were issued on September 12th to applicable insurance companies and insurance adjusters with information on a variety of subjects.

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CFO Patronis: Be Scam Smart #AfterIrma

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis warned Floridians of scammers looking to take advantage of those impacted by Hurricane Irma. Floridians should be vigilant in verifying the identity of those claiming to represent government and relief agencies, and should ask questions to fully understand all contracts with insurance and repair companies.

CFO Patronis said, "As Florida continues the recovery process following Hurricane Irma, I urge all consumers to be scam smart and on the lookout for opportunistic scammers who try to prey on vulnerable people during this time. Regrettably, there are individuals who will attempt to take advantage of our fellow Floridians.”

Below are tips to help protect Floridians from scams:

• Ensure you understand all documents a contractor requests you to sign, including assignment of benefits agreements. Ask questions until you fully understand who is responsible for payment.

• Verify the identity of individuals claiming to represent government and relief agencies or insurance companies. Official personnel should display their ID badges, should provide identification without hesitation upon request, and say why they are in the area (i.e. surveying damage, assisting residents, etc.). If you suspect that someone is impersonating official personnel, contact the local police department or sheriff’s office immediately.

o Beware of imposters going door-to-door claiming to be FEMA representatives, asking for money to assist with the filing of federal flood claims. FEMA does not charge for this service and does not go door-to-door in this capacity. 

Reports of such activity were reported in North Florida following Hurricane Hermine. 

o Beware of robocalls from imposters claiming to represent FEMA, asking consumers to hang up and dial a 1-800 number to make an insurance payment ASAP to prevent policy cancellations.

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Office of Insurance Regulation Issues Emergency Order - IRMA

At the Direction of Governor Scott, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier issued an Emergency Order suspending and activating certain insurance rules and statutes for the health, safety, and welfare of Florida's policyholders. Among other provisions, the Order provides an additional 90 days to policyholders to supply information to their insurance company; prohibits insurance companies from canceling or non-renewing policies covering residential properties damaged by the hurricane for at least 90 days; and freezes any and all efforts to increase rates on policyholders for 90 days. The Order can be found here.

 

Office Statement on Annual Workers’ Compensation Rate Filing

The Office of Insurance Regulation has received the 2018 Florida workers’ compensation rate filing by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), which proposes a statewide average premium decrease of 9.6%. This includes a statewide average rate decrease of 9.3% and a reduction of the fixed expense cost applicable to every workers’ compensation policy in Florida from $200 to $160. The new rates would become effective January 1, 2018.

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Naples Man Arrested in Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scheme

The Florida Office of Financial Regulation announced that Ben A. Handa was arrested, and charged with fraudulently obtaining a mortgage loan, communications fraud and defrauding a financial institution for his alleged role in a mortgage fraud scam.

Commissioner Drew J. Breakspear said, “The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to working with our partners to bring financial criminals to justice. We will continue to protect Floridians from financial crime and ensure the financial marketplace is safe to do business.”

Read more>>

 

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