Chip Merlin | Property Insurance Coverage Law Blog | November 4, 2019
The Tampa Bay Times published an article yesterday which should be of concern to all policyholders. Florida’s elected official who then overseas the Department of Financial Services is calling for a 30-day time period for policyholders to cancel public adjusting contracts.
One can imagine what is going to happen. Insurance companies delay and deny claims. Their policyholders get upset and hire a public adjuster. Those that hire public adjusters then get calls directly from the insurance company promising better service and more payments if they will just fire their public adjuster saving 10 percent. The public adjuster gets terminated. The insurer does a little better, but not enough. The pattern repeats itself over and over. Delays and under payments are even more rampant.
The elected official making this suggestion owns a seafood restaurant. I wonder if he would be willing to allow his customers to pay only a portion of their bill if they did not like their meal or a portion of it?
I can understand an insurance company officer blaming anybody but his claims department for taking too long to pay a claim or wrongfully denying it. I can understand why those that run insurance companies do not like those in academia writing books—like Professor Feinman, who wrote Delay, Deny, Defend—which expose the systemic wrongful claims practices which many insurance companies engage. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that taking premiums and not fully and promptly paying claims is a lot more profitable than playing by the rules and doing so. What wrongful acting insurance company wants all that pointed out?
So, maybe those insurance executives can work with government officials overseeing insurance to blame those helping the policyholders rebuild, make their claims and enforce the insurance contract so they cannot do so? I can imagine those insurance executives and their lobbyists can make up a strategy to find some bad apples in the ranks of those helping policyholders as examples and make laws that shut up those troublemakers and keep them from helping the policyholders.
The elected Florida official had this to say about public adjusters:
I’ve seen PAs that sign people, and then they sit back there on Facebook all day long, because they know that they have got an airtight contract, and they will leave you twisting in the wind.
It is hard to deal with this logic. Who are all these public adjusters? I am aware of one panhandle public adjusting firm with hundreds of clients that has a huge backlog of pending cases and has an immense presence on Facebook in Panama City—everybody in Panama City knows the firm I am talking about. But virtually all public adjusters I know want the claims they are working on paid quickly so they can make money and move to other work.
Which leads to the big question—why aren’t Florida government officials suggesting laws and regulations to the entities not fully and promptly paying the claims? Policyholders do not want to hire people like me to sue their insurance companies or help get the claims payments fairly made for the full amount owed. They are forced to do so because their own insurers have let them down.
Just as academia has noted, policyholders and society need strong unfair claims practice laws which are enforceable and which the insurers are afraid enough of that they will stop underpaying and delaying the payment of their customers’ claims.