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Chrissie Cole
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Citizens Insurance Asks for Time Limit on Insurance Claim Disputes

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Citizens Property Insurance, facing criticism for thousands of 2004 and 2005 open hurricane claims and insurance claim disputes, seeks to rein in the adjusters and lawyers alleging they are creating disputes in order to pocket larger fees

Assistant general counsel for the state-run propery insurer, suggests limiing the time a homeowner has to change disputed insurance claims

”We have created a spawning ground for this stuff to go on,” said Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, who told stories of public adjusters offering wide-screen televisions to homeowners who hire them to challenge their insurers. In return, those adjusters collect fees of up to 40 percent of the insurance claim check.

The forum for the exchange was Monday’s meeting of a state task force on Citizens Property Insurance claims handling.

”I can’t say they have failed to close claims as much as they have gotten a lot of new ones and have had a lot reopen,” Insurance Consumer Advocate Bob Milligan said.

At the end of May, Citizens had 3,510 claims from 2004 and 2005 hurricanes still pending. 2,723 of them are in dispute over total damage exceeding $120 million. Included are 986 cases in court, a number that includes Panhandle residents suing Citizens for full pyament on homes that were destroyed by wind and flood during Hurricane Ivan.

The four-storm 2004 hurricane season turned Florida into a magnet for public adjusters, private contractors who settle claims on behalf of the homeowner instead of working for an insurance company. The number of registered public adjusters in the state rose from 400 to more than 2,500, said Raymond Altieri, past president of the Florida Association of Public Adjusters.

A storm-free 2006 left those adjusters idle, an environment Citizens blames for the number of storm victims now challenging their claim checks.