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Gallagher cites insurance companies' hurricane lapses

The five companies he met have agreed to resolve problems, Florida's chief financial officer says.

By CARRIE JOHNSON
Published March 11, 2005


TALLAHASSEE - A lack of telephone lines, inadequate computer systems and too few adjusters were just a few of the problems identified among the five hurricane insurance companies singled out as the state's worst by Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher.

Gallagher met this week with the heads of the companies to determine why outstanding claims were not being paid in a timely manner.

All five responded to his request for a face-to-face meeting and agreed to resolve any problems, he said Thursday.

"They have all committed to handling their outstanding claims as best they can as soon as they can," Gallagher said at a press conference.

The five companies are Universal Property and Casualty Insurance; Vanguard Fire and Casualty Insurance Co.; Capital Preferred Insurance Co.; First Protective Insurance Co.; and Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Gallagher said at least two of the companies remain under review for not complying with state laws. He declined to name them.

To prevent future problems, Gallagher said any insurance company that applies for a Florida license will be reviewed by the state Office of Insurance Regulation to ensure it has the technology and personnel necessary to handle a catastrophe.

"We now know what a company has to have in order to be able to handle these kind of catastrophes and that's what we're going to expect any new company to have when they start - not when a storm hits," Gallagher said.

At the next Florida Cabinet meeting, Gallagher said he plans to ask for a 30-day deadline for insurance companies to settle claims or provide a written explanation.

About 92 percent of claims have been resolved. Gallagher estimated about 130,000 out of 1.6-million are unsettled.

Carrie Johnson can be reached at 850 224-7263 or cjohnson@sptimes.com