On April 17, Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty released a memo to all insurance providers active in the state, reminding them to credit or waive deductibles for the claims of crime victims in accordance with a 1994 law.
McCarty’s memo comes at the strong urging of Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office of Law Enforcement Relations, Victim Services & Law Enforcement Programs conducted a nearly two-year-long investigation into waiver denials by Florida insurance companies. The investigation found 21 wrongful waiver denials from the 13 surveyed insurance companies between April 2012 and February 2014.
Who determines waiver eligibility?
The original property insurance law, passed in 1994 as the Florida Crimes Compensation Act, clearly exempts victims from paying the deductible on insurance claims for property damage incurred in a crime. Insurance companies must instead cover the victim’s loss, even if the loss is not greater than the insurance policy’s specified deductible or copayment.
The waiver or credit applies not only to victims who are harmed, injured or killed as a result of the crime, but also to disabled or elderly victims whose quality of life is considerably reduced due to property loss. Unfortunately, as the attorney general pointed out in a note to McCarty that detailed the findings of the investigation, it is not unheard of for insurers to bypass the law and wrongfully charge crime victims for their full deductibles, contributing to further diminishment in their quality of life.
The memo instructs insurance companies to comply with the Florida Crimes Compensation Act. Insured parties who meet the eligibility requirements may file a notice of credit or waiver, provided by the Office of the Attorney General, along with their claims. The insurer must then cover the loss and has no authority to challenge or revisit the claim later on.
How widespread is wrongful waiver denial?
Of the 13 insurance companies investigated, none were blameless when it came to ignoring the 20-year-old Florida Crimes Compensation Act. Large national companies, including Allstate, Geico, Great American Insurance Group and USAA, each had at least one instance of a wrongful waiver denial from the two-year survey period, and Florida Peninsula Insurance alone had eight.
The Florida attorney general’s office took care to note that such instances of waiver denials for crime victims, even in clear violation of the law, might be far more common than the investigation found, as the insurance companies submitted notices of their violations on a voluntary basis.
This issue highlights another way in which insurance companies have attempted to prevent homeowners from collecting the full amount of compensation they deserved, this time in the form of charging deductibles when it was against the law to do so. If you need to file an insurance claim in Florida, be sure to consult a public adjuster to make sure you get the most out of this process and do not suffer due to unfair insurance industry practices.
Advocate Claims Public Adjusters serves homeowners and business owners throughout Florida, including Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Boynton Beach, Wellington and the surrounding areas. Call us today at 1-954-369-0573 or contact us online.