State Creates Mediation Program to Resolve Hurricane Insurance Disputes

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Thousands of property owners around Florida say their insurance companies are leaving them in the lurch, and now the state’s stepping in to help. Florida’s chief financial officer is creating a mediation program to help you get the assistance you deserve.

Jeff Moore was watching crews clear what’s left of his rental house on Monday. It was crushed by a huge tree when Jeanne blew through town. He says filing an insurance claim turned out to be surprisingly easy.

“All this damage was done like on a Monday morning, and we had the claim settled and everything processed by that Thursday. I believe the adjuster came out the next day.”

But many property owners haven’t been so lucky. The state Department of Financial Services is investigating more than 11,000 complaints against insurers in the wake of Florida’s four hurricanes.

Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is creating a mediation program to act as negotiator between frustrated policy holders and their insurers.

“Those people that bought a policy, it didn’t say on that policy, by the way, if four hurricanes hit, we’re not going to help you, and so the expectations are that they’re going to be treated just the same as if there was only one hurricane and it only affected their house.”

Sam Miller with the Florida Insurance Council welcomes the mediation program, but says customers also have to be reasonable.

“The industry’s never faced anything like this before.”

More than 15,000 adjusters are working around the clock. Miller says they’re trying to care for the hardest-hit property.

“We absolutely are handling this as quickly as we can, but it’s an unprecedented challenge for us, for the industry.”

Insurance companies will have 21 days from the time a customer requests mediation to resolve the dispute before state mediators step in.

State mediation is free to insurance customers. Call 1-800-22-STORM to request mediation.

The state enacted a similar insurance mediation program after Hurricane Andrew and 10,000 customers signed up. The state is expecting as many as 30,000 mediation requests from this summer’s four hurricanes in less than six weeks.