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Insurance Companies Are Dragging Their Feet One Year after Hurricane Michael

Residents of the Florida Panhandle are still cleaning up a little over one year since Category 5 Hurricane Michael slammed onto shore. Many are still waiting for their insurance claims to close, enduring hardship in the meantime as best as possible, with the lingering question in their minds – what is taking so long?

If you live in this devastated area, you may have filed one or more property insurance claims in order to recover from your material and financial losses. Or, you may have been overwhelmed with the work of recovering from the devastation with the understanding that you have three years under Florida law after the date of the storm to file a claim involving hurricane property damage.

One year after landfall

Hurricane Michael made landfall at Tyndale Air Force Base on October 10, 2018 before tearing through the nearby city of Mexico Beach. As the storm ripped through Mexico Beach, almost 3/4 of the city was destroyed – this included 809 buildings considered destroyed among the 1,584 damaged. Across the entire County, more than 45,000 structures were affected in some way. The storm was directly responsible for 16 fatalities and indirectly responsible for another 43 in the entire state. The hurricane in total caused about $25 billion worth of damage.

Now, one year after the storm, empty slabs of land are scattered throughout the town, the famous pier that was seen floating away during the storm is nowhere to be found. No gas stations or sit-down restaurants are open, and Highway 98 is still closed. Many homeowners no longer have a home as they are unable to rebuild due to delayed insurance company payouts. Construction workers are finding it difficult to obtain housing as they labor in the rebuilding effort.

Former Speaker of the Florida House, Alan Bense, is trying to apply pressure on the insurance companies. The Speaker endured Hurricane Michael-related damage to his Panama City home, and has subsequently dealt with the frustration that thousands of others in the state of Florida have experienced with their insurers. In the aftermath of his experience, Bense referred to these insurers as the “Number one obstacle” to home and business owners receiving the reconstruction services they need.

At a recent news conference, Bense expressed his own frustrating experience with the insurers – “I’m on my seventh adjuster for my home. Seventh adjuster!”

Insurance issues linger

Attorneys and insurers are playing the blame game, as some 17,000 insurance claims out of the nearly 150,000 filed from Hurricane Michael are still left unsettled more than a year after portions of the Panhandle were devastated by the storm. Under Florida law, these claims should have been paid prior to the end of 2018 or within 90 days of filing.

Individuals, families, businesses that have paid their insurance premiums faithfully should not be forced to remain in a state of limbo for this long, waiting on the help they are owed in the aftermath of tragedy. It is incumbent upon the state to compel insurers to resolve all of these outstanding property damage claims in a prompt manner.

Do not delay filing your claim

Under Florida law, a three-year statute of limitation exists on filing claims for losses associated with a hurricane event, but the law also allows homeowners to file supplemental claims within five years, as well. However, delay can damage your home further during subsequent rainfalls and storms if needed repairs are left undone. With your claim, it is also important to have your property checked or reviewed for the second time as necessary for potential previously unknown damage. A subsequent inspection during the three-year filing period may uncover hidden damage for which you may demand payment from your insurer.

Our hurricane property damage attorneys at Warhurst Law offer legal representation for Hurricane Michael victims throughout the Southeast, including across the Gulf Coast, Florida Panhandle, and the state of Alabama. For a review of your home and property and legal support for your right to access insurance on your homeowner’s policy, call us today at 251-694-1932 or use our contact form to request a free consultation at our office in Mobile.

* Warhurst Law does not and cannot guarantee an outcome to any case.

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