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Citizens paid premiums to entice adjusters after Hurricane Irma

Pay rates for insurance adjusters jumped by up to 30 percent as Citizens Property Insurance Corp. scrambled to respond to claims following Hurricane Irma, the carrier’s Consumer Service Committee learned Thursday.

The hikes were prompted by competition for trained adjusters with Texas, still recovering from Hurricane Harvey when Irma hit Florida on Sept. 10. Texas had boosted payments to adjusters, including bonuses, chief claims officer Jay Adams said.

“We were trying to equal the market rate they were paying in Texas, so that we could get adjusters … to come to Florida to work for Citizens,” he said.

Rates have since returned to their pre-Irma baseline.

Citizens engaged an outside contractor, Worley Claims Services LLC, to oversee a crash training program that armed newbie damage estimators with smart devices containing software designed to assist in assessing damage.

The committee met on the final day of the 2017 hurricane season, which saw nearly $6 billion in damage in Florida. Citizens, Florida’s property insurer of last resort, estimated that it has closed nearly two-thirds of the 62,000 claims filed against its policies.

Before Irma hit, Citizens had estimated it would need 2,500 adjusters. It had 800 contractors on hand following the storm. Scrambling allowed the carrier to assemble a strike force of 1,500.

“We leveraged every piece of technology we could to help respond to this event,” Adams said. That included the use of drones to survey damage in the Keys and Miami, which returned assessments within 72 hours.

The company also paid adjusters to work extended hours and weekends.

“We wanted people that were here, already on the ground,” Adams said.

The company looked for emergency licensed adjusters approved by the state.

“We also targeted folks that were displaced by the storm because of the storm from their jobs, such as realtors, home inspectors, and we even had some agents who engaged in this program to help support us,” Adams said.

Citizens expects to receive an additional 10,000 Irma claims by the time the dust clears, with all claims totaling $1.2 billion. Industry-wide, Irma has produced 830,788 claims and more than $5.8 billion in property damage.

“With $6.4 billion in surplus and substantial reinsurance coverage, Citizens remains fiscally sound after responding quickly and effectively to Hurricane Irma,” Chris Gardner, chairman of Citizens’ Board of Governors, said in a written statement.

Written By

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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