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Lawmakers looking to reduce hurricane insurance payment delays

Ann and Randy Seglers’ Panama City home suffered catastrophic damage.  (WJHG/WECP)
Ann and Randy Seglers’ Panama City home suffered catastrophic damage. (WJHG/WECP)(WJHG)
Published: Oct. 16, 2019 at 9:12 PM CDT
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Lawmakers are trying to get to the bottom of why many insurance claims for Hurricane Michael took months to close and why more than 17,000 remain open a year after the storm.

Policyholders are asking for stricter punishments for insurers who delay payment.

To this day one out of ten insurance claims from Hurricane Michael remains open.

Ann and Randy Seglers’ Panama City home suffered catastrophic damage.

“It rained in our entire house. Shingles were blown off and there was no protection,” said Ann.

A year later, they’re still living in a camper on their property waiting on their insurance company to pay.

“We're just in limbo,” said Randy.

Attorney Chip Merlin represents the Seglers and others like them.

Of the more than 1,700 complaints received by the Department of Financial Services concerning Hurricane Michael claims, more than half deal with claim handling delays.

Merlin blames insurance companies for dragging out the claims process and delaying payment.

“There's no penalty right now for insurance companies that are delaying it and we've got to have more teeth in our laws so that they're being held accountable,” said Merlin.

Lawmakers are listening to policyholder advocates like Merlin and also from insurers to try to find solutions.

“When there's a claim delay, it hurts the entire community and that's what's going on in Panama City, Florida,” said Merlin.

While many policyholders have had to seek help from attorneys to close their claims, insurance companies argue excessive litigation is the biggest problem.

Five percent of Michael claims are in litigation.

“What's happening in Hurricane Michael litigated claims is a gold rush,” said Locke Burt with Security First Insurance.

But policyholder advocates shot back, arguing if insurers paid on time there wouldn’t be a problem.

“Far from a gold rush, this is a crying shame,” said property insurance claims attorney Amy Boggs.

Florida’s Consumer Advocate and the Chief Financial Officer are working on a consumer protection package to hopefully speed up payments after a storm.

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