On Wednesday, September 6, 2017, with Hurricane Irma fast-approaching the Florida coast, the state’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier hosted their first conference call with insurance company executives to discuss hurricane preparedness. According to a press release from the Florida Department of Financial Services, nearly 50 insurance companies were represented on the call. The discussions focused primarily on facilitating claims administration, including post-storm claims reporting, insurance adjuster availability, and ensuring that policyholders are able to file claims even if communication services are interrupted by the storm. The department is reportedly seeking to host an “on-site insurance village” following Irma’s landfall to aid consumers in filing claims. The department wants to ensure that carriers have plans in place and are prepared with sufficient staff to handle the influx of claims expected in the coming days. In addition to ensuring that there are adequate means for claims to be submitted to, and adjusted by, insurance companies, the department will also require insurers to report claims information on a daily basis.
Based on our experience with Superstorm Sandy in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, as well as hurricane-related insurance matters in Florida and nationally, we anticipate that Florida will take many actions, including the issuance of Insurance Bulletins and Emergency Orders, designed to accelerate claims processing and minimize coverage denials. In addition to setting up the “on-site insurance village,” we expect Florida to authorize issuance of emergency adjusters’ licenses to enable insurers to furnish enough staff to process a high volume of claims. Insurers can also expect Florida to issue rules and guidelines altering the normal claims reporting procedures and requiring expedited responses. Insurers could expect a moratorium on denying claims, cancelling, and/or non-renewing policies for a period of time after Irma makes landfall. The department will likely dictate steps insurers must take to assess and adjust claims by a date certain unless there are extenuating circumstances preventing a particular carrier from complying. Further, and perhaps most significantly, Florida is likely to require all Irma-related claims to be mediated at the carrier’s expense before a coverage denial can be issued.
As national coordinating counsel for weather-related catastrophes such as Superstorm Sandy, Goldberg Segalla’s CAT Team has developed and constantly improves strategic plans to guide insurers through the aftermath of destructive natural events like Hurricane Irma. Our CAT Team is a multidisciplinary group more than 45 lawyers strong, with several key members based strategically in our Florida offices and along the east coast. We will continue to monitor and provide further updates as needed.
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