The hurricane season has ended and in Florida, this means a decade of zero hurricanes in spite of the fact that the country has had a few devastating hurricanes since 2000. Florida though has had around 63 subtropical or tropical cyclones from 2000 up to 2013 causing over $64 billion in damages, 69 deaths, and 82 injuries. The strongest hurricane to hit Florida happened in 2004, Hurricane Charley. That hurricane alone cost $5.4 billion in property damages, $285 million in agricultural loss and damages, 24 deaths, and almost 800 injuries. In some areas, about 95% of the buildings were damaged. But that’s all part of Florida’s past and seeing that no hurricane has hit the state at all, it begs the question: Why does Florida have one of the highest rates in home insurance in the country?
Insurance experts have the answer. According to them, insurance providers are pointing the blame on construction materials. They say the cost of repairing or rebuilding has increased dramatically over the years, not even including the cost of labor. There is a domino effect that ends with the consumer paying higher rates.
Based on this logic, other states with few to no hurricanes should also have high insurance rates while states that have been hit by hurricanes in the past 10 years should have higher insurance rates than Florida because of more damages. According to Sean Shaw, a slightly controversial consumer advocate, insurance companies are just using this as an excuse to charge high rates. He adds that the higher rates consumers are paying is all part of corporate earnings especially for top executives. Shaw, who is a lawyer and son of a retired Supreme Court Justice, Leander Shaw ran for representative of the House District 61 but lost to Edwin Narain by a mere 774 votes.
Shaw remains determined to fight for the rights of consumers and whatever reasons insurance companies throw at those who dare complain can all be rebutted be it sink holes (Florida experiences the most number of sinkholes in the country) or insurance fraud.
Let’s look at sinkholes.
According to experts, sinkholes are not increasing but attention to it is growing because of the Internet and the shock value of seeing images of sink holes. In fact, insurance companies in Florida begun questioning claims on sinkhole damages so much so that in 2011, the state’s insurance law was overhauled. The new law actually devalues a property because it shuts the door on certain claims from the “sinkhole alley” of Florida which is Pasco and Hernando counties. This law makes it harder for property owners to qualify for damage claim so property owners are stuck with having to shoulder the cost should any part of their property be damaged by a sinkhole. Other lawyers say it is almost impossible to qualify under sinkhole damage because insurance companies are allowed to pick the engineers who will decide on claims. In addition, sinkhole is a separate insurance from the basic homeowner’s property insurance.
Let’s look at insurance fraud.
The Florida Division of Insurance Fraud gets over 10,000 alleged cases of insurance fraud with about 1,000 cases presented for prosecution. However, even if Florida ranks 3rd in the country for cases presented for prosecution and second in number of arrests for insurance fraud, the Florida’s Division of Insurance Fraud is highest in recovery of losses from insurance fraud. In 2009, restitution amounted to over $34 million.
Shaw insists, “At a certain point you have to tell the insurance agency we don’t care what the excuse is.” He insists that electing someone who will be pro-consumer is the best way to stop the rates from increasing.
Right now consumers have options to getting lowered insurance rates aside from electing pro-consumer leaders:
- Ask current state representatives and leaders to get tough on insurance
- Shop for insurance well in advance so you don’t get stuck with having to make fast decisions just to get it “over and done with”
- Invest in additional security and hurricane items like roof straps to get additional discounts
If you have an insurance claim or want to have our attorneys review your policy of insurance, please call The Mineo Salcedo Law Firm for a free consultation. (954) 463-8100.