Thousands of Southwest Florida homeowners could be getting bad news for the holidays.
Some experts are expecting a wave of insurance denials in the coming weeks.
Friday marks 65 days since Hurricane Ian hit and already more than 130,000 people have had their claims denied.
State law requires insurance companies to approve or deny a claim within 90 days.
“In the case of Hurricane Ian, we may see more complex issues. Specifically, if the damage to your home was a wind-related loss or a flood-related loss,” said Mark Friedlander with the Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit that helps consumers understand insurance issues.
Ian brought sustained winds of 150 mph as the eye made landfall in Cayo Costa along with 18 feet of storm surge in some places.
But the debate about wind vs. flooding is playing out in the world of insurance.
Gina Clausen Lozier, an attorney who specializes in insurance cases, says it’s important to carefully read your policy to know your protections.
“I’ve had a lot of calls after Ian where they said, ‘the agent told me I had this kind of coverage, or the agent told me I have flood coverage’ and then you realize that they don’t,” Lozier said.
According to numbers from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 647,924 insurance claims have been filed. Of those, around 20%, 132,010, have been denied.
The III expects more than a million claims to be filed in Florida.
After Hurricane Michael hit in 2018, there were 158,991 claims filed in Florida.
14% of those claims were denied.
Damage from Hurricane Irma resulted in more than a million claims filed with nearly 31% of those claims being denied.
“Similar to what we may see with Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Irma back in 2017 had many claims where the determination was made it was a flood loss vs. a wind loss,” Friedlander said.
“We’re also seeing initial underpayments,” said Lozier, the insurance expert.
If your claim is denied, experts recommend you first appeal with your insurance company.
You can also file a complaint with the Florida Division of Consumer Services.
Florida residents can also consult an attorney, though Lozier urges that to be the last resort.
Friedlander with the III estimates there could about be between $10-20 billion worth of litigation because of Hurricane Ian-related claims.