GALLAGHER, INSURANCE EXECUTIVES TOUR STORM-DAMAGED AREAS
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher took executives from several
major insurance companies on aerial and ground tours of areas devastated by
Hurricane Charley. Gallagher organized the visit so that executives charged with
quickly paying claims in the storm’s aftermath could gain a personal
understanding of the hardships faced by thousands of Floridians.
“For the victims of Hurricane Charley, there is real human tragedy,” Gallagher
said. “That’s why I asked insurance executives to travel to Florida to see
firsthand and meet personally with those affected by the storm, to ensure a
prompt and compassionate response from insurance companies.”
Because of today’s meeting, companies represented committed immediately to step
up efforts to provide Additional Living Expenses (ALE) payments, mobilize more
adjusters and promptly pay insurance claims. The department has received more
than 6,700 calls, most regarding adjusters who have yet to arrive, and has
opened nearly 400 complaint files.
In response to Hurricane Charley, Gallagher has also issued several emergency
rules for public adjusters and proposed a 60-day grace period for insurance
premium payments and non-renewals of homeowners insurance policies.
The emergency rules ban public adjusters from requiring cash up front to adjust
claims for victims of Hurricane Charley and limit public adjuster fees to 10
percent of the claim amount. The rules also give consumers up to 14 days to back
out of a contract without penalty.
“By limiting fees, it’s our hope that homeowners and business owners dealing
with the aftermath of the storm know what to expect and aren’t scammed and
gouged financially by public adjusters inflating their fees,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher also said that while he was imposing a 10 percent cap on adjuster
fees, policyholders are free to bargain with adjusters to get their services at
Gallagher said he will ask Governor Jeb Bush and other members of the Florida
Cabinet, which also serves as the state’s Financial Services Commission, to
co-authorize the 60-day insurance premium grace period and moratorium on
non-renewals at the next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
“We have residents who don’t have a roof over their heads, or even a way to
receive mail and may not for weeks,” Gallagher said. “As we work to come to
grips with the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, we will need to recognize
extenuating circumstances for storm victims. We need to focus on helping our
citizens and businesses get back on their feet.”
Gallagher will ask to extend these measures through October 15 to storm victims
in Brevard, Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Lake, Lee, Orange, Osceola, Polk,
Sarasota, Seminole, and Volusia counties, which have been declared as
substantially affected counties.
Gallagher also is asking banks and credit unions to consider increasing credit
card limits and credit lines, reducing or eliminating late fees on loans,
granting temporary loan payment extensions, allowing customers to skip a loan or
credit card payment, expediting loan applications, and waiving ATM and
check-cashing fees for storm victims, even if they are not accountholders.
The Department of Financial Services, which Gallagher oversees, has teams of
investigators on the ground investigating reports of any unlicensed adjusters,
inappropriate adjuster offers or contractors working without workers’
Department investigators arrested the owner of a tree service on Wednesday when
they learned he was paying his workers in cash and did not have workers’
compensation insurance, as required by Florida law. Mark Steven Link, 43, owner
of Link Built Tree Experts of Royal Palm Beach, was arrested at the scene of a
dispute with one of his customers in Port Charlotte. Contractors working without
coverage can pose a financial risk to property owners.
To verify that an adjuster or agent is licensed, to get help filing an insurance
claim or verify a contractor has coverage, call the department’s storm hotline
at 1-800-22-STORM (227-8676).
To assist consumers, Gallagher has deployed the department’s Mobile Response
Unit to the Publix parking lot at 24123 Peachland Blvd. in Port Charlotte.
Specialists are also located at FEMA outposts including the Herald Recreation
Center, 23400 Herald Ave. in Port Charlotte; the Germain Arena, 11 Everblades
Parkway in Estero; and, at DeSoto Middle School, 420 East Gibson St. in Arcadia.
The executives participating included: Bob Ricker, Executive Director of
Citizens; Joe Formusa, President of State Farm Florida; Phil Lawson, President
Allstate Floridian and Bob Pike, General Counsel of Allstate Floridian; Doug
Robinett, CEO of Nationwide Ins. and Mike Kaylor, President of Nationwide of
Florida; Lee Ann Ned, Senior Corp. Officer for Property and Casualty of USAA;
Dan Eldridge, President of Mobile USA; Nancy Baily, President of First
Floridian; Paul Condrin, Vice-President for Claims of Liberty Mutual; Jim
Wurdeman, President of Atlantic Preferred; Brian MacLean, Sr.Vice-President for
Claims of St. Paul Travelers; John Auer, President American Strategic; Bobby
Bowden, Vice-President for Property and Casualty; Bruce Howson, President of
Qualsure; Mark Welzenbach, Vice-President for Claims of Hartford Ins. of the
Midwest; Billy Sanders, President of Vanguard; Don Matz, Vice-President for
Reinsurance of Tower Hill Preferred Ins. Select; Loni Lugo, Chief Marketing
Officer of Cypress; and Mark Davey, President of Fidelity National.