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High Republican turnout in Florida held back the predicted “blue wave” as FAIA-supported candidates scored major victories in Tuesday’s election. After spending nearly $900,000 on political campaigns in the 2018 election cycle, FAIA scored a 91.5 success rate, going four for four in Cabinet races, 13 of 14 in Senate races, and 37 of 41 in House races. The election of presumed Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis gives a huge boost to the insurance community’s hopes of combating assignment of benefits fraud.

Narrow margins mean recounts

But, this is Florida, and nearly three days after Election Day, election results are still not certified for the Governor’s race (in a machine recount), the U.S. Senate race, and the Agriculture Commissioner’s race (both in a by-hand recount). Follow Kyle Ulrich’s blog for updates.


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Total estimated insured losses from Hurricane Michael have reached more than $2.1 billion, according to the most recent data from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

The current number of claims from Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm that hit the Florida Panhandle before continuing a path of destruction through several other Southeast states, had reached 110,183 with 26.1 percent of that total number of claims closed as of Oct. 30, 2018. OIR compiled aggregate information from claims data filed by insurers covering all claims based on filings received.

The lines of business included in the total number of claims are residential property, commercial property, private flood, business interruption and miscellaneous other lines.

Residential property losses account for the majority of the total claims at 78,045 – 57,088 of that number is homeowners claims. Only 20.7 percent of residential property claims were closed as of Oct. 30.

The percentage of commercial property claims closed was lower at 10.3 percent of the 4,471 claims received. Only 460 business interruption claims had been filed so far, with 9.1 percent of those closed to date.

Just 64 flood claims had been filed as of Oct. 30, with 37.5 percent of those claims already closed.

The Florida Department of Financial Services said in a statement Wednesday that Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state insurer of last resort, had 3,231 claims as of Oct. 29.

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Three contractors conducting business in Leon, Gadsden, and Gulf counties have been removed from the Panhandle by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team for unlicensed activity following Hurricane Michael, according to a statement from Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis.

The contractors are banned from soliciting or conducting any work in Florida pending a full investigation

The fraud teams, formed last year after Hurricane Irma to stay ahead of post-storm fraud, are investigating reports of potential fraud in Bay, Gulf, Washington, and Leon counties. The Strike Team was activated before Hurricane Michael made landfall and had boots on the ground immediately following the storm.

Initials sweeps have been made in Liberty, Gadsden, Gulf, and Leon counties. First sweeps in Bay, Jackson and Washing counties are ongoing. Secondary sweeps in the impacted areas will begin this week.

“Anyone who tries to take advantage of Florida families and businesses during this vulnerable time will be caught,” Patronis said. “I can’t stress this enough: do not hire anyone without asking for their professional license information and if they have workers’ comp insurance.”

Unlicensed activity can put homeowners and contractors at risk and opens the door to fraud. Consumers should always verify that contractors have the appropriate licenses, including workers’ compensation coverage, before they hire a company to assist in repairs after a storm, DFS said.

To report any suspicious activity call CFO Patronis’ help line at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO

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More than a week after Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle, authorities are reporting three more deaths from the Category 4 storm as residents returning to their homes try to piece together their lives from the rubble left by strong winds and storm surge.

Michael slammed into Florida’s Panhandle with 155 mph (250 kph) winds on Oct. 10, retained hurricane-force winds as far inland as southern Georgia, and also affected the Carolinas and Virginia. Six deaths were reported in Virginia, mostly from flash flooding. North Carolina had three deaths, and Georgia had one.


Florida’s death toll stood at 17 on Thursday, said Emergency Management Division spokesman Alberto Moscoso. The official number included an additional death from Liberty County, and others confirmed as storm-related by district medical examiners, including 12 from the hardest hit Bay County.

Additionally, three more deaths have been confirmed as storm-related to bring Bay County’s total to 15 deaths, according to Whit Majors, chief investigator for the district medical examiner’s office. Majors said those deaths were reported to state emergency management officials. It wasn’t immediately clear why they were not yet added to the statewide tally.

Across the region, stunned residents continued picking up the pieces on Thursday, as many remained without electricity.

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Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm hitting Florida Wednesday with wind speeds of more than 150 miles per hour, is not just a major storm for the State of Florida, it is the strongest storm to hit the Florida Panhandle since hurricane records began, according to AIR Worldwide.

In an update released Wednesday from the catastrophe modeling firm, AIR said while there have been several other storms in recent history that have intensified more rapidly—Wilma increased from a 70 mph tropical storm to a 170 mph Category 5 in one day—what is unique about Michael is where it occurred: just prior to landfall, in an area that has never experienced a storm of this intensity.

“Not only is Michael potentially historic for where it will make landfall, it is also unique in terms of when,” AIR said. “If preliminary reports about Michael’s landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla., are correct, Michael will be recorded as the most intense hurricane on record to have struck land in the North Atlantic basin (which includes the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean) in the month of October.”

AIR noted that to date, the strongest hurricanes impacting the Florida Panhandle were all Category 3 storms. Among them, the 1917 unnamed storm #4, hurricanes Opal 1995, Ivan 2004 (an Alabama landfall that impacted Florida), and Dennis 2005. All four storms made landfall west of where Hurricane Michael struck.

The Florida Panhandle went nearly 80 years before experiencing another major hurricane. Opal in 1995 made landfall east of Pensacola with 115 mph winds. As with Hurricane Michael, Opal made use of the extremely warm water of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as favorable upper-level conditions, and rapidly intensified to a Category 4 hurricane before weakening and making landfall as a Category 3, AIR said.

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Two recent decisions from the Florida Supreme Court that reversed rulings by the same District Court of Appeal will have a serious impact on the insurance industry.

The consequential rulings came on Sept. 20, 2018 in the cases of Harvey v. GEICO General Insurance Co., and Odom v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in which the Florida Supreme Court’s used its power of discretionary review to reverse decisions by the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Harvey v. GEICO General Insurance Co.

In Harvey v. GEICO General Insurance Co., No. SC17-85, So. 3d (Fla. Sept. 20, 2018), the Florida Supreme Court found there was support for a jury’s finding of bad faith and held that the Fourth District “misstated” the law. It’s 4-3 ruling reversed a Fourth District Court of Appeal decision siding with GEICO General Insurance Co. in a $9.2 million judgement against the insurer.

The case stemmed from an automobile accident that caused a man’s death by the plaintiff’s vehicle, which was covered under an insurance liability policy of $100,000 through GEICO. The auto insurer tried to settle the matter by providing the man’s estate with a check for the full policy limits. The estate argued that GEICO failed to provide a statement from the insured plaintiff, which might have indicated the plaintiff’s assets.

The estate returned the check and filed a wrongful death suit against the plaintiff, and a jury awarded the estate $8.47 million.

The plaintiff then filed a bad faith claim against GEICO, claiming that the attorney for the estate would have advised the estate to settle for the insurance policy limits had he known that the plaintiff would not have sufficient assets to cover a potential jury award. The jury found that GEICO had acted in bad faith and awarded the plaintiff a judgment of $9.2 million. GEICO appealed and the Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed the award, concluding that the plaintiff had not provided sufficient evidence of bad faith because even if GEICO acted deficiently, it did not cause the excess judgment against the plaintiff.

In the Sept. 20 majority opinion to reverse Fourth DCA’s decision by the Florida Supreme Court, Justice Quince, joined by Justices Pariente, Lewis, and Labarga, found there was competent, substantial evidence to support the jury’s finding of bad faith, and held that the Fourth District “misstated” the law.

Justices Canady and Polston dissented in separate opinions, joined by Justice Lawson, that the Florida Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the Fourth District Court’s opinion did not expressly and directly conflict with prior Florida Supreme Court decisions.

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Insurance industry losses from Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas mid-September as a Category 1 storm, will be manageable and not have a severe impact on insurers, according to experts.

As the storm turned out to be less of a wind event and with flood excluded on most homeowners policies, it is expected insurers will not experience the significant losses that were initially feared. However uninsured flood losses could cost nearly $20 billion, by some estimates.

“All indications we have seen is [Florence] was more of a flood event than wind issue,” said Brian O’Neill, exectuive vice president for JLT Re’s National Catastrophe Practice.

According to Fitch Ratings, wind speeds from Florence diminished as the storm approached the U.S. coast and Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14. Fitch said the level of wind related damage to property is expected to be modest as a result of the significant decline in wind speeds, limiting losses to primary property insurance writers.

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimated that industry insured losses from Florence’s winds and storm surge will range from $1.7 billion to $4.6 billion. Losses include downed trees that caused damages to homes and automobiles, downed utility poles, and shingle loss with isolated cases of more extensive roof damage.

Karen Clark & Co. said it expects insured losses from Hurricane Florence will reach $2.5 billion. That estimate includes insured losses to residential, commercial and industrial properties.

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