Few Hurricane Michael insurance claims filed yet

For information on claims process, call 1-877-MY-FL-CFO

Damage from Hurricane Michael is likely to be in the billions of dollars, but relatively few insurance claims have been filed so far.

Part of the problem may be a change made by emergency managers last year. Some of the most severely damaged areas are off-limits to anyone who doesn’t live there. Insurance consultant Lisa Miller said 20 adjusters couldn’t make the trip west from Tallahassee. 

“The difficulty has been getting past some of the re-entry barriers farther west of Tallahassee. Last year, there was a change in badging for adjusters from the Division of Emergency Management," Miller said. 

The division didn’t immediately respond to News4Jax's questions. But so far, few insurance claims have been filed.

Michael insurance losses expected in the billions

Insured losses from Hurricane Michael could go as high as $4.5 billion, with the largest amount in residential losses, according to an early estimate by an insurance industry group. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America released the estimate, which put potential losses at $2 billion to $4.5 billion. Residential losses were estimated at $1.5 billion to $3 billion. The estimates also do not include losses in the National Flood Insurance Program. Michael made landfall midday Wednesday in the Panhandle community of Mexico Beach. Michael had 155 mph maximum sustained winds, the strongest ever recorded in the region.

Michael Huff, whose home sits behind a pile of debris, said he hasn't filed a claim yet. 

"They released me to spend money, but they don’t know how much yet," Huff said. "But I don't know how much the policy will actually cover.”

Miller said to be careful of what the conditions are in the contracts you are asked to sign.

“If you see a sentence that says, 'I hereby assign all my rights of this policy to this vendor,' do not sign it," Miller said.

Tree service owner Carlos Collins said to be wary of some of his competitors.

“There are people out there who are scam artists. They rip the older people off who are seniors, and they take their money for deposit and never return," Collins said.

For fortunate homeowners who didn’t get hit, according to the industry, the one thing you can do is make your home stronger before the next storm hits.

Gov. Rick Scott toured Panama City from the air Thursday. He visited Gulf and Franklin counties Friday. 

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis was in his hometown of Panama City on Friday and urged those who have questions about policy coverages or who need to help in filing a claim to call his office's free Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-FRO (693-5236).

"Call it. It’s going to be open Saturday. It’s going to be open Sunday. It’s going to be taking calls next week," Patronis said. "Sen. Marco Rubio and I have got an insurance village set up on the west end of Bay County where all the major insurance carriers will come in with FEMA together as we will start to provide services and get people back on their feet."

He said the hotline allows evacuees to start the claims process before they return home. 

“If they’ll call in, we’ll give them the latest information that we’ve got as people are starting their claims process. And you know what? If they have comfort wherever they evacuated to, and they’re comfortable staying there a few days, let’s start the claims process right where you are at. You don’t have to be here in person to start the claims process because adjusters will be on the ground and will be surveying. They’ll be using drones and all types of great technology to do it," Patronis said. "One of the problems that you also have here: You come back. You want to file a claim. So many of these carriers are internet-based. So (that's) why we have to set up the insurance village because communications aren't working here."

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.