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Gallagher Continues Work to Help Storm Victims

1/30/2006

CONTACT:
Tami Torres or Bob Lotane
(850) 413-2842
 
Successful mediation program extended to resolve 2005 insurance disputes
 
TALLAHASSEE – Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, today 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.
 
When the department receives a request for mediation, the insurance company then has 21 days to settle the claim before a mediation is scheduled with the homeowner.  The mediations are non-binding and seek to avoid lengthy and more costly options to resolving hurricane claims, such as going to court.   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.
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. Gallagher also serves as the State Fire Marshal.