Last Wednesday I attended a meeting in St. Augustine, Florida at Flagler College organized by Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. Invitees included dozens of insurance executives from Florida’s homeowners insurance industry. The tone was generally one of relief that Hurricane Matthew’s bite was not as severe as its bark.
What was originally anticipated to be a top five storm in terms of insured losses (over $30 billion), the estimates from CEO’s at the meeting table ranged somewhere between $3 and $6 billion – certainly large, but not crippling to the insurance industry. In addition, half of those losses were anticipated to be flood related and thus not covered by conventional homeowner policies (but rather the National Flood Insurance Program). Of course, Wednesday’s meeting was held before the extent of the flooding in North Carolina was fully comprehended, so the insured losses may increase significantly (again, primarily NFIP related).
While a speedy recovery is certainly desired, one concern I took away from CFO Atwater’s meeting was an almost obsessive focus on rapidly contacting insureds and scheduling adjuster visits. While in a vacuum this sounds good, a quick settlement offer from an insurance company is only beneficial to the home or business owner if the offer is a fair one. The obsession with speed will likely lead to errant estimates from insurance company adjusters. And while most adjusters employed by insurers are honest operators, the simple fact is that they are paid by companies that want to minimize their claims-paid exposure. All things being equal, human nature says that these insurance company employed adjusters may err on the side of a low offer.
As I’ve said in previous articles, the insurance settlement process is a negotiation, and insureds would be well served to seek second and even third opinions. Whether insurance company employed adjusters have a natural bias toward minimizing claims, or they simply make mistakes when rushing to visit and evaluate thousands of structures, the policyholder must remain vigilant.
With this in mind, we have scheduled a free webinar for this Wednesday, October 19th from 5:30-6:30 PM EDT. Attendees will hear from me as well as Louisiana flood insurance attorney J.R. Whaley via Skype from Baton Rouge.
J.R. was involved in post-Katrina litigation and is currently representing hundreds of businesses and home owners after the devastating Summer 2016 floods in Baton Rouge. He will offer a preview of what Hurricane Matthew victims may expect over the coming months, based on his experience over the past two months after the Baton Rouge disaster. Unfortunately, J.R. reports that insurance companies in Louisiana are consistently offering at least 50% less than what independent adjusters estimate losses to be. This is something those recovering from Hurricane Matthew should keep in mind when going through the insurance claims negotiation process.
I hope you can join us for Wednesday’s webinar. Participation is free, but you must register below.
Guest Speakers – Florida Attorney Tom Young & Louisiana Flood Insurance Attorney J.R. Whaley
Co-Hosted by North Carolina Attorneys Ben Whitley & Jim Crouse
Wednesday, October 19, 5:30pm – 6:30pm EDT