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Sha'Ron James


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Free workshops will teach you how to handle insurance claims after a hurricane

9/3/2013

By Marisa Gottesman

Sun Sentinel

People know how to prepare for a hurricane by putting up shutters, buying water and loading up flashlights with batteries.

But what happens after a storm hits?

Sen. Maria Sachs wants people to know how to handle the aftermath, specifically, how to deal with their property insurance companies in the event of an emergency.

From Sept. 11-13, in the midst of hurricane season, she will host four free workshops in Palm Beach and Broward counties. "Smack in the middle is when the hardest storms hit," Sachs said. "That is why we picked these dates."

With the help of a panel of insurance experts from government agencies and consumer advocacy groups in Tallahassee, she will set up shop in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Boca Raton and Delray Beach to answer questions people have about their policies.

But, it wasn't a hurricane that prompted the workshops. Actually, it was the recent lack of them. With premiums rising and companies dropping customers with a lack of storm damage claims to justify why, she said people want to know what they are paying for.

"We know that more than a million customers are going to pay an average of 7.5 percent more in 2014, and that's without any major storms in the past eight years," she said.

Panelists like Jay Neal, the executive director of Florida Association of Insurance Reform, will be able to explain why rates are rising.

"Even if there isn't a storm, companies have to buy reinsurance," Neal said. "The cost of that can be almost half of every premium dollar."

He said insurance is complicated and issues can't always be pegged on "greedy insurance companies."

"There are hardly a few simple answers to the problems," he said.

Regardless of how complex the issue is, representatives will discuss topics such as how to file a claim or will my policy pay for boarding my pets if I have to evacuate my house during a storm?'

"I want to bring Tallahassee down south to help," Sachs said.

And this isn't the first time.

Sachs began offering these types of workshops five years ago when she was in the Florida House of Representatives, and has continued to do so because so much of her district, now district 34, lies on the coast.

She said she found providing information this way to be more productive than larger town hall style meetings because each person has their own concerns.

"People will be able to talk to representatives one-on-one to get their questions answered," she said.

There is no need to sign up for the event, but questions will be answered on a first-come first-served basis.

mgottesman@tribune.com, 561-243-6544 or Twitter @marisag_ss

The workshop schedule:

Sept. 11, Fort Lauderdale, 6 to 8 p.m.

Fort Lauderdale Beach Community Center, 3351 NE 33rd Ave.

Sept. 12, Delray Beach, 2 to 4 p.m.

Public Library, 100 W. Atlantic Ave.

Sept. 12, Boca Raton, 6 to 8 p.m.

Downtown Library, 400 NW Second Ave.

Sept. 13, Pompano Beach, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Emma Lou Olsen Civic Center, 1801 NE Sixth St.