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State may help settle Hurricane Hermine damage claims

Florida homeowner in bind over downed tree

Rain band from Hurricane Hermine over St. Petersburg Beach
Rain band from Hurricane Hermine over St. Petersburg Beach

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More than two weeks after Hurricane Hermine, thousands of people are still wrestling with insurance companies -- and at least one unique case has put a homeowner in a bind, prompting state officials to possibly step in.

Joe Greiner’s neighbor has a tree in the yard. During the hurricane, the tree came down and broke a fence. Now it’s hovering over Greiner’s house.

So, who claims it?

“I woke up and there it was,” Greiner said. “And it’s kind of a weird situation, as far as the insurance goes.”

The neighbor’s insurance company told Greiner to call his own provider. Greiner’s insurance company sent out a claims adjuster, but said it wouldn’t account for the tree.

Paying out of pocket won’t be cheap.
 
“I got a couple estimates,” Greiner said. “It’ll be in the neighborhood of $4,000.”

When asked if he were worried about the big tree hanging over his house, Greiner said, “Well, yeah, a little!”

“It’s been OK for two weeks,” he continued. “If another hurricane came through, it would be really bad news, I suppose.”
 
State officials could play a role in settling the matter.
 
The Department of Financial Services handles consumer insurance complaints. Officials have received six so far.
 
“We will contact the insurance company (and) see if we can step in to resolve the issue,” said Denishia Sword, of the Department of Financial Services.
 
It’s a possibility, Greiner said.

“In a perfect world, my insurance company pays for the whole thing,” Greiner said. “But that’s not going to happen.”
 
For now, the waiting game continues.
 
The state’s Office of Insurance Regulation said there are still about 9,500 open insurance claims due to damage from Hurricane Hermine.