Public adjuster worries new insurance law aimed to help homeowners may hurt them

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard
Published: Updated:

The goal of the Insurer Accountability Act is to hold homeowners insurance companies more accountable and for them to fairly pay out your claims. It went into effect July 1, 2023. Some worry the law is fraught with loopholes.

Karen Nelson knows a thing or two about roofs. She was an independent adjuster for insurance companies for about 15 years. She traveled around the country inspecting roofs and the rest of homes for damage after disasters. Now, she’s on the other side, working as a public adjuster for homeowners.

Nelson explaining roof issues Credit: WINK News

“Coming from being in the field for 15 plus years, it’s frustrating to see the policyholders getting treated as poorly as they’re getting treated on this storm,” Nelson said of insurance companies handling Hurricane Ian claims. “It’s just a frustrating experience.”

And when it comes to the Insurer Accountability Act, Nelson isn’t a fan.

“I’m not impressed by it,” she added. “I just don’t think it’s going to make a difference.”

After a homeowner files a claim with their insurance company, the insurer sends a field adjuster or contracted independent adjuster to the home. They inspect the damage and write up a report complete with estimates and pictures on how much it will cost to repair. The report heads to a desk adjuster in the office. Independent adjusters warned lawmakers last year that those desk adjusters were changing their reports. Specifically, they accused them of lowering the amount of money something cost to fix, therefore, lowering the money a homeowner receives.

“This fraud committed by some of the insurance companies is more widespread than any of us could have imagined,” independent adjuster Ben Mandell told the Florida Commerce Committee during December’s property insurance special legislative session.

The Insurer Accountability Act

The Insurer Accountability Act makes it a crime for insurers to change the field/independent adjuster’s reports without detailing who made the changes and why. They’ll also have to keep tabs on any edits made and preserve all versions of their reports. Finally, insurance companies will have to tell the state how they handle claims.

Credit: WINK News

“They’ve got to stop changing our estimates and leaving our names on them,” independent adjuster Mark Vinson said in December. “They are just taking stuff out for no reason.”

The law also says struggling insurance companies will no longer be able to write new policies. Their higher ups won’t get any bonuses either. Mark Friedlander with the Insurance Information Institute said these new provisions are normal in other states.

“The law that was passed and signed by the governor shows legislators were listening to their constituents,” Friedlander added. “After the reform packages that were passed over the last few months, many homeowners across the state were concerned ‘you’re doing a lot for the insurance industry, not a lot for us, the consumer.'”

The Potential Loophole

The law has been touted as a big win for homeowners and their wallets. Nelson isn’t sold.

“The insurance companies are going to find ways to still not pay for claims,” she said.

Nelson believes the insurance companies will simply change what the field adjusters can and cannot do.

Client of Nelson’s Ian damage Credit: WINK News

“The field adjusters that will go out will just go out and take pictures,” she continued. “[The insurer] won’t let them write an estimate because if there’s no estimate, nothing can be changed. So, now, they’re going to have to write reports and not estimates. They’re going to have to say ‘this is what we see.’ Then the desk adjuster will be like ‘okay well, this is what we’re going to pay for off of these guidelines.”

WINK News Consumer Reporter Andryanna Sheppard brought Nelson’s concerns to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.

“Every time when the Florida legislature meets, they pass policy and they feel like we have created the best mouse trap and it’s going to solve every problem we’re ever going to have,” Patronis said. “Unfortunately, there are very smart people that find ways to create loopholes in these policies. Sometimes, loopholes created by attorneys, sometimes created by insurance companies, sometimes created by public adjusters. They all find ways to gain the system because they see a way to profit.”

“My guess, only time will tell on that one,” Nelson said.

If you are having trouble with your insurance company and would like to share your situation with Andryanna Sheppard, you can do so through this form.

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