Public adjusters’ role in question
BY JOHN FRANK
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — A major property insurance bill is mired down with time running short in the legislative session. The latest sticking point is the ability of public adjusters to handle property insurance claims for home owners.
SB 2044 would reduce the time a home owner can file or reopen a claim from five years to three years after the storm and puts strict new limits on public adjusters’ compensation and their ability to solicit claims. The bill is awaiting a Senate hearing.
State insurance officials and industry advocates blame public adjusters for making bogus claims for damages and driving up the cost of hurricanes, which is shared by policy holders statewide.
The legislation’s supporters point to the recent $710 million bond for the state’s hurricane fund, which needed additional dollars to cover losses from Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The bulk of the new claims, state officials said, were reopened at the urging of public adjusters, which numbered 700 three years ago but now top 3,000.
But public adjusters say they are being unfairly targeted by insurers who want to limit the scope of a homeowner’s policy. Adjusters groups assert that the main provision to reduce the time frame for filing a claim is unworkable because some damage, such as mold, doesn’t appear until much later.