Thousands of Hurricane Ian insurance claims remain open: ‘I just want my life back’

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard
Published: Updated:

Deborah Croquart’s bedroom in her Cape Coral home used to be the place she relaxed at the end of the day. The place that brought peace now brings the opposite. It’s stripped to nothing but concrete, wooden posts and wires hanging from the walls.

“It’s kind of hard to walk into this room and I do it every night because I have to sweep up what fell from the night before or bugs whatever the case may be,” Croquart said. “I just want my life back.”

Her bedroom has become a constant reminder of September 28, 2022.

“That was terrifying,” Croquart remembered. “We heard this big crash so I walked through the door and the ceiling was on the bed. I thought the ceiling was going to come down on my car. We would take our car down to our friends’ and put it in their garage every time it rained.”

That’s when Croquart called and filed a claim with her insurance company, Homeowners Choice Property and Casualty Insurance Company. She said the whole process has kept her on edge, especially since she’s moving her elderly mother with dementia in to care for her.

“We have nowhere to put her. So, my beautiful Canadian neighbors are going to let me put her there for a bit,” said Croquart. “I’ve put a deposit on an apartment up the street, but it’s going to financially cripple us.”

According to the Homeowners Choice website, they have 100,000 policyholders and growing in Florida and five other states. Croquart feels like the company and her assigned desk adjuster have been dragging their feet ever since the storm.

Looking at damage from Hurricane Ian. CREDIT: WINK News

“[The desk adjuster] more or less argued with me over everything right then and there. And I’m like ‘Well, wait a minute. We don’t have a ceiling. We don’t have this and the baseboard.’ She goes ‘Oh, you can put the baseboard back up and paint it.’ and I said ‘What planet are you on?!’” Croquart recalled.

A field adjuster later came out to look at the damage.

“I showed him everything. Well, he didn’t include half of the stuff. That’s wrong,” Croquart said. “When I had a public adjuster come and they got that bill, they’re like ‘oh no.’ They were told to come out several times. They have not. They’ve not responded or anything.”

So Croquart stepped it up and hired a lawyer.

“I’m so disappointed in their actions and what they have ignored, to probably other people as well, to our plight and don’t care,” added Croquart. “It’s been nothing but a nightmare. No answers back.”

She’s not alone. As of March 9, 2023, data from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation shows 397,966 homeowners opened Hurricane Ian claims. 77.5% of those claims are closed but 55,923 are open and have received payment, while 33,486 have not. Croquart said an insurance check came in December 2022.

Credit: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation

“It was for $32,000 and some change,” Croquart said with disappointed. “It wasn’t the right amount and it didn’t even say what it was for.”

Croquart’s estimated cost for damages is more than $184,000. She said the $32,000 check was barely enough to fix the roof. Again, Croquart said the desk adjuster told her Homeowners Choice would not cover certain damage even though she said it’s all covered in her policy.

“Numerous things like landscaping, debris cleanup,” Croquart pointed in her policy. “[The desk adjuster] said ‘Well no. We’re not responsible for that.’ That’s in there.”

So she filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Financial Services. Croquart believes she’s spent more than $15,000 out of pocket to get her home back to normal.

“People pay their premiums faithfully. They get a nice chuck of change annually. You do that for this very reason and then they ignore you,” Croquart added.

WINK News emailed and called Homeowners Choice. Someone with the company called back a couple of days later saying they’d send another inspector out. The representative added he called Croquart’s attorney letting him know the company would be cutting another check for Croquart’s damaged contents.

The total number of Hurricane Ian related Insurance claims filed is 708,255, according to the State. That includes flood and commercial property claims costing $13,937,676,794.

Credit: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
Credit: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation

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