Independent Adjusters Charge Florida Insurers With Doctoring Damage Estimates

Do some Florida property insurance companies hire independent adjusters to inspect property claims, then routinely alter their inspection reports to reduce estimated losses?

Yes, and it’s a widespread and fraudulent practice, according to three adjusters who spoke Tuesday at a Florida House of Representatives committee hearing.

“The insurance companies were directing file reviewers to change my estimates to repair the roofs rather than replace a totaled roof,” said Ben Mandell, a licensed all-lines adjuster. “However, the insurer was leaving my name on the estimates in a fraudulent effort to make it appear that I had written this bogus estimate.” The scheme was repeated over and over again, he said.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill seeking to stabilize property insurance market

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a sweeping property insurance bill on Friday. How much and when it will work to stabilize the stormy market is another question.

One of the key goals of the legislation is to keep the claims process from ending up being settled in courtrooms, a problem that DeSantis said drives up legal costs for insurers.

"This bill reins in the incentive to litigate," DeSantis said before signing the bill in Fort Myers, an area devastated by Hurricane Ian in September. "This is going to make a huge, huge difference."

Florida has struggled to keep the insurance market healthy since 1992 when Hurricane Andrew flattened Homestead, wiped out some insurance carriers and left many remaining companies fearful to write or renew policies in Florida. Risks for carriers have also been growing as climate change increases the strength of hurricanes and the intensity of rainstorms.
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Florida Bills Offer Broad Attack on Insurance Costs: Legal Fees, AOBs, Reinsurance

After years of what some insurers have labeled half-measures, Florida lawmakers appear to be on the cusp of delivering “historic” and “transformational” reforms that would end one-way attorney fees, banish assignments of benefits and offer state-backed reinsurance at a discount.

House Bill 1A and Senate Bill 2A were posted late Friday, just three days before a special legislative session that begins today. The bills were met with widespread applause from insurance industry leaders, attorneys and consultants.

“The proposed legislation sends a strong message that Florida is serious about stabilizing the property insurance market and creating an environment to attract capital and create more options for Florida’s insurance consumers,” the Florida Association of Insurance Agents said in a statement.

After nine insurer insolvencies in the last three years and spiking premiums across the state, the bills aim to tackle the major cost drivers, including the incentives behind what insurers have dubbed runaway claims litigation. They also would address other cost factors and provide some consumer protections that would force insurers to pay or deny claims more quickly, to be more judicious about demanding the appraisal process in claims disputes, and face new scrutiny from regulators.
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Florida Building Codes Made a Big Difference for Newer Homes in Ian, Reports Show

In the hardest-hit parts of southwest Florida, many newer structures survived remarkably intact in Hurricane Ian’s winds, suggesting that updated Florida building codes are making a difference in reducing property losses, according to early assessments.

“From what I saw, the structures and roof systems that were installed since the last couple of cycles of building codes did relatively well,” said Mike Silvers, a roofing contractor and director of technical services for the Florida Roofing and Sheetmetal Contractors Association, who toured the Fort Myers and Naples areas after the storm Two reports, one from university professors who studied the damage and one from CoreLogic, the data analytics company, agree. A preliminary report to the Florida Building Commission last week included an aerial photograph of Fort Myers Beach that gives a stark picture of modern building techniques.

The graphic, from State University of New York Distinguished Professor Michel Bruneau, tracked the age of homes on one beach area. It shows 18 homes built before 1981 that were completely wiped away by the storm. But one house, built in 2020, appears to be almost unscathed. The home is elevated above much of the storm surge level, but the roof also looks undamaged.
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