Hurricane Ian victims suing their insurance
company for underpaying damage claim
Article Courtesy of ABC Action News
By Stassy Olmos
May 20, 2023
PORT CHARLOTTE — Nearly eight months after Hurricane
Ian ravaged Southwest Florida, some homeowners say their insurance
company won’t pay for the full cost of repairs and they are left with no
option but to sue.
“This is the shell of our beautiful home…
last year after the hurricane,” Sherry McBride said with a
shaky voice as she stood next to her husband, Jim.
“We are in our 70s. He's a Vietnam veteran, and we’re
hurting right now.”
Hurricane Ian ripped through the McBride’s neighborhood in
Port Charlotte, leaving their three-bedroom retirement home
The storm separated the back wall from the home, ripped up
the roof in several places, and drenched everything inside.
“It blew in with such a powerful suction that everything got
wet… anything that was in here was damaged. They had to
totally gut it,” McBride showed ABC Action News.
Nearly eight months later, the couple said they’ve only
received enough money from their insurance company, American
Integrity, to replace the roof and a temporary back wall.
Even after hiring a public adjuster for help with their
claim, they said they’re still pleading with their insurance
to help make their home livable.
“We went to these contractors and they gave us estimates —
all in the same ballpark of what it's going to take to
rebuild our house and when we had our mediation with our
carrier, they wanted to pay pennies on the dollar,” McBride
expressed. “We could never; we're not rich; we could never
rebuild our house like it was before.”
Nearly eight months after Hurricane Ian ravaged
Southwest Florida, some homeowners say their insurance company won’t
pay for the full cost of repairs and they are left with no option
but to sue. “This is the shell of our beautiful home… last year
after the hurricane,” Sherry McBride said with a shaky voice as she
stood next to her husband, Jim. “We are in our 70s. He's a Vietnam
veteran, and we’re hurting right now.”
McBride said most estimates are around $220,000, and
the cost of supplies is only going up the longer they wait.
According to the McBride’s claims documents, the insurance adjuster
estimated about $40,000 in damages.
With their $5,500 deductible, the couple and their public adjuster
received a check for $35,000 in November.
The McBrides have also been paying rent to live elsewhere for the last
seven months. According to their policy, their insurance covers “loss of
use” up to $27,000, which would include having to pay rent, but the
company marked the loss of use value at zero.
In contrast, the couple’s public adjuster’s estimate calculates
replacement costs at $224,000, with at least $36,000 for loss of use.
“We're defeated and it's just like, what are we going to do?” McBride
said emotionally, “We're gonna have to take our claim to court because
they leave us no choice.”
The Insurance Information Institute estimates insurance companies will
pay $10-$20 billion to Ian-related litigation, in turn contributing to
more financial burden and higher premiums for homeowners across the
“You can't settle it for literally 20 cents on the dollar… that’s not
fair,” explained the McBride’s public adjuster Jerry Daniels with
Corbitt Public Adjusting.
Daniels said their company currently has hundreds of Ian victims, with
only less than 10% of claims closed. He said many clients came to them
in December and January when the 90-day state requirement for insurance
companies to pay claims ended, and people received checks far below what
“The path that we have to take is completely contingent upon the
decisions they make. If they were willing to come to the table and be
reasonable, we could settle these,” Daniels explained.
We reached out to American Integrity asking about the McBride’s claim. A
spokesperson said they can’t “comment on a claim with attorney and/or
public adjuster representation.”
“I want my home back. I want to get up and make coffee in my own coffee
pot, and I want to bring groceries back here and cook it and put on the
table for my husband,” McBride expressed. “Things I always enjoyed
doing. It's all taken away from me, and how much longer?”
McBride's Hurricane Ian claims
According to the state’s reporting data, the McBride’s claim is one of
nearly 110,000 Ian claims still open as of March.
We reached out to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) to
ask about the concerns of insurance companies underpaying policies.
A spokesperson for OIR said they are aware of “accusations claiming
insurance companies are not fulfilling their obligations to pay out
claims.” They confirm they are investigating company claims-handling for
Hurricane Ian and are “committed to protecting Floridians in this
We also followed up with the American Policyholder Association (APA). In
December, APA Executive Director Doug Quinn said they were already
fielding complaints regarding insurance companies. Now he confirms they
are specifically recording complaints from those working within the
"Since the APA focuses on criminal fraud perpetrated by the insurance
industry against consumers, we’re not keeping stats on complaints from
consumers related to insurer bad faith, but we have received quite a
few," Quinn responded.
"The complaints we have been focusing on are related to insurance
industry insiders who have come forward with complaints of potential
fraud perpetrated to underpay Florida policyholders on their claims. To
date, over 30 insurance insiders have reached out, although most wish to
remain behind the scenes due to fear of retaliation by the insurance
industry," he said.
One thing to keep in mind regarding any legal action as a result of
Hurricane Ian is that new laws stopping fee multipliers do not apply.
Last year’s second legislative special session addressing Florida’s
property insurance crisis took place two months after Hurricane Ian hit.
This means that insurance companies still have to pay their
policyholder's attorney fees if they’re taken to court and found liable
for more damages; this can be up a rate up to $800 an hour.
Insurance companies that have gone insolvent or pulled out of the state
in recent years have claimed financial burden from this type of "runaway
According to the Office Of Insurance Regulation, 79,220 lawsuits were
filed against insurance companies in 2020, with underwriting losses of
more than a billion dollars.
Going forward, carriers won’t have to pay these fees, but public
adjusters say this is also worrisome because many homeowners won’t be
able to afford help if their claims are denied or underpaid by insurance
companies in instances like a hurricane.
American Integrity is one of the largest domestic property insurers in
Florida. The company's CEO, Bob Ritchie, spoke to ABC Action News
In-Depth Reporter Stassy Olmos about the property insurance crisis one
year ago this month.
In an interview, he told Olmos that it had been a seven-year battle to
sort through the roof storm damage claims coming in by more than
“We have 250 employees; our largest department by staffing and payroll
is our legal department,” Ritchie explained. “Of course, there are valid
claims. We do our discovery, our adjudication, and some, in fact, are
covered,” he said regarding roofing scams.
Here is the full statement from OIR regarding their actions post
“OIR is aware of the accusations claiming insurance companies are not
fulfilling their obligations to pay out claims to policyholders. Below
is some additional information regarding OIR’s role in the
claims-handling process, which may be helpful to your viewers.
OIR encourages consumers who having issues with a claim to report it.
OIR works closely with the Dept. of Financial Services (DFS) Division of
Consumer Services and Insurance Consumer Advocate to receive claims data
and review consumer issues. OIR continues to review claims and complaint
data from all stakeholders to evaluate insurers and remains committed to
protecting Floridians in this recovery process. OIR is conducting
investigations into company claims handling for Hurricane Ian. These
investigations are confidential and exempt from public records until the
investigation is completed or ceases to be active, per s.
Following Hurricane Ian, OIR issued numerous data calls to track market
impacts and initiated more than 50 market conduction investigations to
evaluate aspects of the claims handling process. Based on the findings
of an examination or investigation, OIR’s market regulation units may
take administrative action, impose administrative penalties, and require
corrective action in order to protect insurance consumers from unlawful
or harmful business practices.
It’s important to note, that while OIR is conducting investigations into
company claims handling for Hurricane Ian, OIR’s market regulation units
monitor and enforce insurer and insurance-related entity compliance with
the Florida Insurance Code. When conducting an examination or
investigation, OIR’s market regulation units take a comprehensive review
of all business practices to identify issues such as form compliance,
claims handling, insurer communication, proper claims investigation,
interest paid on overdue claims, adequate monitoring of third-party
administrators and managing general agents, and claims settlements.
During these examinations or investigations, OIR’s market regulation
units review all applicable information and documentation to identify
and resolve alleged violations of Florida law.
I would also note, Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have
passed a number of consumer protections as part of the recent insurance
reforms, including expediting the claims and communication process and
providing OIR with explicit market conduct authority. As a result, OIR
will not only be reviewing how insurers are responding to claims subject
to previous prompt payment timeframes, but how they plan to update their
processes to accommodate shortened timeframes.”