Tampa, Fla. (WFLA) — Things still haven’t returned to normal for many Floridians who were hit by Hurricane Ian more than six months ago.
Many families struggle to navigate the confusing claims process and pay for home repairs.
8 On your part, investigator Mahsa Saeedi is pushing government regulators for answers about the process.
Last month, we told you about allegations that came up at a statehouse hearing.
In December, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, with thousands of Floridians still waiting to get their insurance, three insurance experts went before the Florida Trade Commission and testified to changing their damage estimates.
Officers said their estimates have been revised to reduce payments for storm victims.
“They need to stop changing our estimates and leave our names on them,” said Mark Vinson, a licensed insurance adjuster in Florida.
“There are some serious allegations,” said Mark Friedlander of the Insurance Information Institute. Mark spent 13 years working for an insurance company in Jacksonville.
Several weeks later, two government investigations were launched.
He wanted 8 on your part to know when and how a field officer’s discretion can be legitimately changed. But it turns out that Florida’s new insurance commissioner, Michael Yawerski, isn’t going to answer that question.
Friedlander says that usually, when you report a claim to your insurance company, they hire a field adjuster to examine it and give you an estimate of your loss.
But the field officer does not have the final say.
Ultimately, adjusters and insurers make coverage decisions.
So when and how can range adjuster estimates be changed?
“The claim is that grades were changed without the field modifier’s approval but the field modifier’s name was still on the document, is it okay to do that?” Mahsa Saidi, the investigator, asked.
“This is clearly not standard operating procedure in the property injury industry,” Friedlander said. “If, for any reason, it is significantly changed, it would not be appropriate to keep the field adjuster’s name there, without their consent.”
But not everyone agrees with Friedlander.
Other insurance industry insiders told 8 On Your Side in the background that they can, and do, change field rate estimates, routinely, without approval.
So, to get a clear answer, we turned to Yawersky, who is responsible for regulating insurance companies. We repeatedly asked his office to answer the question. They refused to answer directly. First, they sent us a link to a consumer toolkit, and it directed us to two pages that didn’t answer the question.
Then, they sent us a legal to analyze ways of unfair competition and unfair or deceptive actions or practices.
But given that this could affect every insurer and Florida’s millions, it’s not the reporter’s job to interpret regulations, answer uneasy questions, and provide guidance for an entire industry.
We’re not the only ones trying to get an answer. State Sen. Travis Hutson, sponsor of the insurance company accountability bill, wants to force insurers to explain who makes the discretionary changes and why.
The state has not charged any specific insurance company with wrongdoing in connection with the insurance adjuster’s claims.
If you have a tip for Mahsa, email her at [email protected]