Florida insurance market set to face more scrutiny as Citizens swells and feds open legal hotline

by | Oct 3, 2023

  • Florida Senators will examine the state’s property insurance market next week, seeking solutions for property owners and insurers.
  • The hearing comes as Citizens Property Insurance Corp. continues to grow despite efforts to shift policies to the private market.
  • Meanwhile, FEMA is now offering free legal assistance to Hurricane Idalia victims dealing with insurance claims.

Next week, Florida lawmakers will take another hard look at the state’s property insurance market, looking for additional ways to address ongoing challenges faced by property owners and insurers alike. At the same time, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. continues to swell in size, adding thousands of policies a week, all while Hurricane Idalia victims are dealing with insurance claims, prompting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer free legal assistance.

The Florida Senate Banking and Insurance Committee is scheduled to meet on Oct. 10 to hear presentations from Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Tim Cerio. This comes after major changes were passed in a December special legislative session aimed at shielding insurers from costly lawsuits and encouraging policies to shift from Citizens to the private market.

Citizens, established as the state’s insurer of last resort, has seen considerable growth over the past three years. As of last Friday, Citizens held 1,406,189 policies, up from 1,399,554 policies just a week prior. This makes it the largest insurer in Florida. However, the company is hoping to reverse this trend through a “depopulation” process designed to move policies into the private market. But so far, the policy count just keeps growing.

The pressure on Florida’s insurance market is also coming from natural disasters. Hurricane Idalia, which struck 16 Florida counties on Aug. 30, resulted in 22,087 property insurance claims as of Sept. 28, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. To support victims, FEMA has initiated a Disaster Legal Services program in partnership with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division. This service will offer free legal aid to those affected by the hurricane, helping them navigate insurance claims, combat price-gouging, and tackle contractor fraud.

While an additional avenue for more lawsuits might trigger additional waves of litigation, so far, at least, Idalia has not led to an overwhelming number of lawsuits.

The affected areas of the hurricane were relatively sparsely populated, and reforms enacted last year have led to fewer litigation cases than some previous storms, but the industry is still bracing for impact. As of last week, estimated insured losses from Hurricane Idalia stood at $216.1 million, based on 21,525 claims, an increase from $202.3 million and 20,976 claims reported the previous Thursday.


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