Tampa, Fla. (WFLA) — Things are still not back to normal for many Floridians who were hit by Hurricane Ian six months ago.
Many families are struggling to navigate the confusing claims process and pay for home repairs.
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saidi is pressing state regulators for answers about the process.
Last month, we told you about the allegations made at the State House hearing.
In December, in the wake of Hurricane Ian, as thousands of Floridians were still waiting for their insurance to come through, three insurance field adjusters testified before the Florida House Commerce Committee that their loss estimates had been changed.
Adjusters said their estimates were changed to reduce payouts to storm victims.
“They need to stop changing our estimates and putting our name on them,” said Mark Vinson, a licensed Florida insurance adjuster.
“There are some serious complaints,” said Mark Friedlander of the Insurance Information Institute. Mark spent 13 years at an insurance company in Jacksonville.
Several weeks later, two state investigations were launched.
8 On Your Side wanted to know when and how a field adjuster’s estimate can be legally changed. But it turns out, Florida’s new insurance commissioner, Michael Yaorski, won’t answer that question.
Friedlander says that typically, when you report a claim to your insurance company, they hire a field adjuster to inspect and give you an estimate of your damages.
But the field adjuster does not have the final say.
Ultimately, it is the desk adjuster and the insurance company who make the coverage decision.
So, when and how can a field coordinator’s estimate be changed?
“The complaint is that the estimate was changed without the consent of the field adjuster but the name of the field adjuster was still on the document, is this correct?” asked investigator Mahsa Saidi.
“This is clearly not a standard operating procedure in the property casualty industry,” Friedlander said. “If it is significantly altered, for whatever reason, it would not be appropriate to put the field adjuster’s name there without their consent.”
But not everyone agrees with Friedlander.
Other insurance industry insiders told 8 On Your Side in the background, they can routinely change field adjusters’ estimates without consent.
So, to get a clear answer, we went to Yaorsky, who is in charge of regulating insurance companies. We repeatedly asked his office for answers to questions. They refused to give a direct answer. First, they sent us a link to a toolkit for consumers, directing us to two pages that didn’t answer the question.
Next, they sent us a statute to analyze, FS 626.9541 Unfair Methods of Competition and Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices.
But given that it potentially affects every single insurance company and millions of Floridians, it’s not a reporter’s job to interpret regulations, answer outstanding questions and provide direction to the industry as a whole.
We’re not the only ones trying to get answers. State Sen. Travis Hutson, sponsor of the Insurer Accountability Bill, wants to force insurance companies to detail who changes estimates and why.
The state did not accuse any specific insurance company of wrongdoing in connection with the insurance adjuster’s claims.
If you have any suggestions for Mahsa, send her an email at [email protected]