Tag Archives: Property Insurance

Pinellas County Sheriff Going After Unlicensed Contractors

Thirty people were arrested in a three-day sting to “flush-out” unlicensed contractors preying on property owners in Pinellas County. The sting produced at least 60 felony and misdemeanor charges against the violators. Operation Flush Out is Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s third sting since October 2017.

A Tampa Bay Times’ investigation in 2017 revealed how the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board preferred to punish unlicensed contractors with fines rather than pursue violations in criminal court. Contracting without a license carries a misdemeanor for first-time offenses and a felony the second time.

Pinellas County government took control of the agency on July 1st. Gualtieri launched the Construction Licensing Investigative Unit and trained deputies to investigate contracting crimes. The department’s previous stings in October and February netted more than 45 arrests and dozens of charges.

Click here to read the article.

Comments Off on Pinellas County Sheriff Going After Unlicensed Contractors

Filed under Insurance, Property Insurance

Florida Insurance Leaders Hope to Rein In AOB Crisis

The Florida insurance industry is hoping to put an end to its AOB crisis with education. Barry Gilway, president, CEO and executive director of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. says the key to slowing Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse in Florida is for the insurance industry to link AOB to its impact on the consumer and the premiums they are paying.

Insurance carriers from across the state have seen an increase in litigation due to AOB lawsuits from homeowners who work with unlicensed contractors who file inflated and fake claims on their behalf. According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, AOB lawsuits in Florida have increased from 405 to 28,200 between 2006 and 2016 with South Florida being the worst region for this issue.

Florida insurance industry leaders are hoping for a legislative fix with the new Senate leadership coming in next year.

Click here to read the full article.

Comments Off on Florida Insurance Leaders Hope to Rein In AOB Crisis

Filed under AOB, Property Insurance

Florida CFO Advises Homeowners that Insurance Coverage is Vital to Hurricane Preparedness

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis reminds Florida homeowners that the 2018 Hurricane Season is in full swing and the importance of reviewing their insurance policies to understand the type of coverage it provides.

According to CFO Jimmy Patronis, “Last year, Hurricane Irma alone resulted in more than $8 billion in insured losses. If you haven’t already, now is the time to financially prepare for the 2018 Hurricane Season.” He advises that a vital part of hurricane preparedness is making sure that you understand what is and is not covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy so that you can have adequate coverage.

There are eight insurance coverages homeowners may want to consider for hurricane season:

  • Windstorm Coverage
  • Flood Insurance
  • Food Spoilage
  • Sinkhole Coverage
  • Additional Living Expenses/Loss of Use
  • Inflation Guard Endorsement
  • Replacement Cost Endorsement
  • Law and Ordinance

Once a storm develops, insurance companies may be under binding restrictions and may be unable to obtain a separate policy or add these essential coverages to the current policy. It is imperative that homeowners speak to their insurer to confirm these coverages as soon as possible.

Click here for press release.

Comments Off on Florida CFO Advises Homeowners that Insurance Coverage is Vital to Hurricane Preparedness

Filed under Florida, Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Matthew, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Property Insurance, Uninsured

Contractor Charged with Grand Theft and Racketeering in AOB Fraud Scheme

According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, Timothy Matthew Cox, owner of Nationwide Catastrophe Services, Inc. and Restoration Response Services, Inc., has been arrested for an alleged Assignment of Benefits (AOB) fraud scheme, stealing nearly $140,000 for home repairs due to tropical weather events that he never provided. Cox’s scheme impacted 19 homeowners throughout Florida and Texas, leaving the victims’ homes to sustain additional damage from other tropical weather events, including Hurricane Irma.

Cox’s team never started any of the work they were contracted to perform on the 19 homes after receiving insurance payments. He was arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail facing multiple counts of grand theft and racketeering. Cox could face up to 30 years in jail.

Click here for press release.

Comments Off on Contractor Charged with Grand Theft and Racketeering in AOB Fraud Scheme

Filed under AOB, Assignment of Benefits, Fraud, Hurricane Irma, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud

Former Mayor of Tavares, FL Admits to Committing Insurance Fraud

According to WFTV Action 9 News, Robert Wolfe, former Tavares Mayor admitted to committing insurance fraud as part of a plea deal he made with the state. Wolfe was arrested in July after investigators found that Wolfe had reported to the insurance company that he had rented a home for $2,350 a month and had to board his dogs for $1,800 a month due to a leak in his home that needed to be repaired. However, investigators found that Wolfe never moved into the rental.

Wolfe will be placed on probation for 18 months and has been ordered to pay all investigative and court costs. He was also removed from his mayoral seat in July and has since resigned. Once Wolfe completes the 18 month pretrial intervention program, charges will be dismissed.

Click here to view the full story.

Comments Off on Former Mayor of Tavares, FL Admits to Committing Insurance Fraud

Filed under Florida, Insurance, Insurance Fraud

Andrew v. Matthew: The Evolution of Investigative Tools in Insurance Investigations

I am sure right now many of our insurance carriers are out there running themselves ragged, trying to quickly and efficiently adjust the thousands of claims that are pouring in from Hurricane Matthew.

As the dust settles, I want to remind you of all the great resources and tools you have to investigate and adjust claims that were not available during the time of Hurricane Andrew. Although there are many, the most impactful are cellphones, portable computers and trade-specific tools of laser distance meters, moisture meters and thermal imaging devices.

Clearly, we have come a long way from the time of paper files, pay phones and disposable cameras. During Hurricane Andrew, if you wanted to review a prior claim file, you would need to retrieve it from storage or an archive. If you wanted to make an appointment to inspect the property, you would need to leave messages for the insured at their home or office, and wait for them to call you back at the office. Finally, if you wanted to take pictures of the damage, you would have needed to use a disposable camera (which date back to 1986) and hoped you captured the images you needed.

The most significant technological advancement we have at our fingertips is our cell phones. Cell phones give us the ability to take photographs, take videos, record audio and otherwise document an event. As an example, the first cameras on cell phones arrived in 2000. Since then, cellphones quickly evolved into what we know today. With that in mind, ensure that the insured is asked whether they have any photographs of the property taken prior to your inspection as well as any photographs of the damaged areas prior to them being damaged.

Ask for this information early on in the claim handling, so that if it exists, it can be secured prior to a coverage decision. A photograph is worth a thousand words, and you do not want a few of those words to be “if I’d seen that …. ”

Also, be aware that pursuant to Florida Statute 626.854 (15)(c), which states in pertinent part that an insurer shall not be prevented from “timely conducting an inspection of any part of the insured property for which there is a claim for loss or damage,” you are entitled to inspect all areas claimed as damaged. As such, make sure you are asking to see just that — all damaged areas.

Tools Of The Trade
Advancements specific to the trade have been measuring tools, moisture meters and thermal cameras, to name a few. Although the spring-click tape measure was invented in 1868, it was not until the early 1990s that laser distance measures began to circulate. These electronic tape measures not only provide precise measurements, they also assist in obtaining measurements of hard to reach or unsafe areas, common in many homes after the passing of a major hurricane.

Moisture meters and thermal-imaging devices in their current form are fairly recent concepts that have significantly impacted the trade. These two items, when used together, are very effective in locating sources of leaks, water patterns and extent of moisture. The thermal-imaging device will depict a pattern of temperature differences through contrasting colors, while the moisture meter will indicate whether an item is wet or not and can even provide the percentage of wetness depending on the device.

However, please keep in mind that thermal-imaging devices only measure differences in temperature, and the manufacturers of those devices strongly suggest verifying the thermal readings with moisture meters for that very reason. A change in temperature does not equate to moisture in and of itself.

Finally, the best technological advancement for claims handling has been the portability of the computer, i.e. tablets and laptops. These portable computers were invented in 1981 and provide the ability to retain and organize the information obtained by all of the other advancements mentioned. They also allow you to carry large amounts of information regarding weather conditions, aerial photographs of insured properties and claims history.

Knowledge Base
Ultimately, the one thing that has not changed since Hurricane Andrew is that the insured continues to be your best source of knowledge. Remember that Florida Statute 626.854(15)(b) states in pertinent part that a “person acting on behalf of the insurer” should have “reasonable access at reasonable times to any insured or claimant.”

Use that reasonable access to chat with your insured about the loss while it is still fresh in their mind. Topics of interest should include the specific details of the loss, when the loss was first discovered, efforts at mitigation, and any individuals and companies that have helped with the claim. As to efforts at mitigation, make sure to ask what was done, who did it and how they did. This information will be essential to your handling of the claim to ensure all of the insured’s proceeds are used as efficiently as possible to put the home back to its pre loss condition.

Coupling your best source of knowledge with the information you secure during your claims handling and your grasp of the relevant law will be your recipe for success during the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

If you are in need of a quick refresher on the rights and duties included in the applicable statutes, get in touch with registered continuing education instructors who may already have this information in a course approved by the state.

Comments Off on Andrew v. Matthew: The Evolution of Investigative Tools in Insurance Investigations

Filed under Claims Handling, Florida Statute 626.854 (15)(c), Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Matthew, Insurance, Insurance Claims

Insurance Bill addresses issues with Assignment of Benefits

Florida House of Representative, John Tobia of the 53rd district, has introduced CS/HB 669 which addresses consumer issues related to “Assignment of Benefits”. The bill is still alive after a hearing on March 19, 2015 in front of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. The bill addresses insurance-claims issues regarding AOB’s dealing with property insurance. An AOB occurs when a policyholder has a loss and signs a contract with a third party to reconcile the damage. Once the AOB is signed the contract allows for the third party to be assigned the proceeds from the homeowner’s insurance policy. AOB’s are currently a hot topic with property insurance carriers and for years have been the keystone of PIP/No Fault Litigation.

CS/HB 669

Comments Off on Insurance Bill addresses issues with Assignment of Benefits

Filed under FL Legislation