Insurers in Florida Slashed Hurricane Ian Payouts Far Below Damage Estimates

Hurricane Ian
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Hurricane Ian


The stench of rain-soaked carpet made it difficult for insurance adjuster Jordan Lee to breathe when he entered the cream-colored mansion ravaged by Hurricane Ian. He remembered pink insulation covering the aged, white couches and pouring from the fallen ceiling, left gaping from the storm’s 150 mph gusts. He captured rubble flecked on the carpet and walls, roof sections in the yard, and shattered screens and gutters around a palm-frond-filled pool.

The house, owned by retired couple Terry and Mary Sebastian, is located on a canal in Rotonda West, Fla., a coastal town that was hit hard by Ian when it made landfall on Sept. 28. The entire structure would have to be dehumidified, the roof redone, the insulation removed, and the ragged pool enclosure rebuilt. The professional adjuster estimated that the damage would cost around $200,000 to fix for Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Co.

Lee’s stomach fell when he checked up on his report around 10 days later, he claimed. It had been severely reduced, with entire sections eliminated, such as the one documenting concerns in the primary bedroom. The amount of insulation that needed to be replaced was cut in half, and his estimate now said that one-third of the roof should be repaired rather than completely replaced. The homeowners were supposed to receive $27,000 in total. According to papers obtained by The Washington Post, the revisions were made without Lee’s knowledge or consent, but his name remained on the final report.

During big disasters like as Sandy, insurance companies frequently hire third-party corporations such as Tristar Claim Solutions, an independent adjusting agency for which Lee worked as a contractor, to assist with the hundreds of thousands of claims.

Jordan Lee, an independent insurance adjuster, inspected homes following Hurricane Ian and said his reports were changed without his consent. The company he worked for as a contractor said insurers have reasons for altering claims and that estimates are revised “throughout the entire industry at the direction of the insurance carriers. They have the final say.” (Andy Jacobsohn for The Washington Post)

According to adjusters and insurance industry experts, it’s standard for field adjusters, who are trained to assess damaged homes, to collaborate with those back in the office during the insurance claims process to make minor edits, discuss aspects of the claim, and change line items if, for example, the carrier has evidence that damage was caused by a prior event. That is how the system is designed to function.

That, however, has not been the case in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, according to Lee and others.

Instead, Lee and other regional insurance adjusters claim that supervisors have changed their work by decreasing totals, revising damage descriptions, and deleting accompanying images without their approval. These actions to depreciate damage are the most recent manifestation of Florida’s insurance catastrophe.

Following years of more frequent and powerful storms, national carriers withdrew from the market, allowing smaller, regional carriers with less financial reserves to enter. According to a Post investigation, these corporations have been aggressively attempting to reduce payouts to policyholders in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian by changing the job of professional adjusters. As a result, homeowners must foot the majority of the repair expense, exposing an unacceptable disparity between the cost of storm damage and what insurers are willing to pay to restore it.

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