Shortages of adjusters slows Hurricane Irma recovery

Insufficient number of claims staff slows resolutions

Orlando Sentinel/TNS

A family looks at a crack in the earth along the foundation of a building in Orlando after Hurricane Irma hit central Florida in September.
Orlando Sentinel/TNS A family looks at a crack in the earth along the foundation of a building in Orlando after Hurricane Irma hit central Florida in September.

Two months after Hurricane Irma, reporting damages to insurance companies turned out to be the easiest part of the recovery process for many Florida homeowners. Setting the cost of repairs and getting workers out to fix the most severely damaged properties is requiring a lot of patience.

Carlos Villanueva still is waiting for his insurance company to determine the cost of repairing roof damage, 16 structural fissures and resulting mold and moisture at his coastal Miami home.

“The process has been inefficient and riddled with levels of incompetence,” Villanueva said.

Seven adjusters — most of them contracted by his insurance company from third-party providers — have inspected his home. Several times, the insurer decided that an adjuster it sent didn’t have enough expertise and dispatched another adjuster.

Tarps have been installed on his roof four times, but each came loose and needed to be reinstalled.

“There are so many third-party adjusters involved,” he said. “Coordination has been difficult.”

Not all Hurricane Irma claims have been so difficult to resolve. But many have been, industry officials said, and the biggest headaches most likely stem from the shortage of adjusters available after hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck Texas and Florida in quick succession.

According to state data, 809,306 claims worth an estimated $5.6 billion were filed with property-and-casualty insurers across Florida as of Nov. 3, the most recent reporting date.

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Of those, 264,409 were paid out and closed and 180,787 were closed with no payment — usually because the damage did not exceed policyholders’ hurricane deductibles.

Yet nearly half — 364,110 — remained open.

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