Irma Day 60

Two months after Hurricane Irma’s eye landed in the Lower Keys before spreading its winds and flooding into just about every corner of our state the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reports that some 809,306 property (windstorm) claims have been filed by residential and commercial property owners. The state also reports this week that the number of windstorm claims being reported has begun to slow with ‘just’ 13,336 new claims reported over the seven days and that the estimated total of insured property losses (excluding flood claims) is about $ 5.5 Billion.

Miami-Dade has 104,654 reported property losses from Irma, the most of any county, comprising about 19% of the state-wide total and the state reports that 41.6% of those claims are closed. Here’s Irma’s ‘Top 10’ by county as of this week:

Hurricane Irma: Top 10 Property Claims by County

County  # of Claims Reported  % of All Claims  % Closed
Miami-Dade 104,654 19% 41.6%
Broward 66,595 12% 50.0%
Orange 65,270 12% 60.9%
Lee 60,482 11% 50.7%
Collier 56,429 10% 48.4%
Polk 47,950 8% 62.4%
Brevard 37,066 7% 54.9%
Palm Beach 33,951 6% 53.2%
Duval 33,013 6% 67.7%
Monroe 27,927 5% 44.9%

Of the 809,306 in claims the state reports that 55% of all claims, on average, are closed. Washington County, which had a total of ‘just’ 30 claims reported, has the highest percentage of closed claims at 80% while Miami Dade, with the largest number of claims, has the lowest at 41.6%.

Our own experience here at Morris & Reynolds is that new claims from Irma continue to trickle in each day. Every day also brings updates from insurers that they are closing a fair number of claims day to day. My belief is that most of the claims being closed, thus far, are likely for losses whose damage is at or under one’s windstorm deductible or for items, such as landscaping, that most policies do not cover. The state’s report does not comment on the impact of the percentage deductibles that insurers have used since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 but it is clear that whether for one’s residential policy, where wind deductibles typically range from 2% to 5%, or business, where they typically range from 3% to 5%, many claims are within the deductible and that’s likely why a good number of the claims that are being closed have been closed thus far.

Separate from the property (windstorm) claims noted above FEMA, the administrator for the National Flood Insurance Program, reports that 16,786 flood insurance claims have been filed due to Hurricane Irma. Based on very initial data FEMA is estimating that Hurricane Irma claims could exceed $ 11 Billion and, thus, become more costly than this summer’s Hurricane Harvey that so devastated Houston Texas. Corelogic, an actuarial firm, estimates that the total flood losses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina will be between $ 25 Billion and $ 38 Billion.

Here are the numbers of those claims by county per FEMA’s most recent data:

Hurricane Irma: Top 10 Flood Claims by County

County  # of Claims Reported
Monroe County 3,969
Miami Dade 1,870
Duval 1,514
Lee 1,426
Collier 1,426
Broward 829
Palm Beach 199

And speaking of Hurricane Harvey, that storm resulted in a reported 422,000 vehicle claims, easily the most ever on record. Hurricane Irma, in comparison, has thus far resulted in about 215,000 vehicle claims.

The sheer number of claims, whether wind or flood or auto, is nothing short of staggering and it’s clear that insurers, adjusters, contractors, engineers, accountants and others involved with the work needed to settle claims and help folks rebuild are struggling with the number of losses that need to be processed and paid.

It is our experience in the recent weeks that claims that have not yet been closed have had adjusters perform initial inspections and in many cases engage experts including engineers and contractors to assess the damage and calculate the cost of rebuilding to accounting firms to calculate business income claims. That said, the ‘demand surge’ that follows any catastrophe when so many people need help at the same time has, in many cases, made finding a contractor or obtaining a timely response from them or engineers, accountants and pretty much everyone else a challenge. Progress is, we see, being made but it is slow (or at least slower than we would like).

It is also clear that while most adjusters are doing an admirable job of helping as many people as quickly as possible there is room for improvement in some cases. No insurer employs enough full time adjusters to handle the number of claims that follow a catastrophe and, thus, the industry relies upon independent adjusters, sometimes called ‘storm troopers’, who travel from catastrophe to catastrophe all over America to handle the leg work out in the field before filing reports with the insurance company so as to settle claims.  As also happens after a catastrophe, insurers have begun sorting out which of their clients have had larger or more complex claims and are now often devoting their most experience people on such claims and in recent weeks this has led to some initially assigned adjusters on some claims to change to a new, often more experienced, person.

Here at Morris & Reynolds we are working hard to help cut through the inventible delays when this many claims all take place at once. Just as was the case for so many who went days or even weeks without power after Irma, waiting to have a claim concluded can, we know, be frustrating. For this reason everyone here at Morris & Reynolds is working hard to help move things along and that includes following up with insurers, speaking with adjusters, requesting advance payments towards damage and answering questions about what is and is not covered, how deductibles work and so forth.

If you have a question or concern about your claim or coverage, anything at all, please contact your professional agent or underwriter here at Morris & Reynolds and we will do everything possible to help. And for the honor of helping, as always, thank you kindly for allowing us to provide your protection.

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