Just three companies responded to an Oct. 6 request by Florida’s new insurance consumer advocate for data to back up assertions that water damage claims and resulting lawsuits in South Florida are out of control.
Among the companies that did not submit data as requested by Consumer Insurance Advocate Sha’Ron James was the state’s largest: Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer of last resort.
Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said his company had to focus on responding to a similar but mandatory request for data from the state Office of Insurance Regulation.
“After Sha’Ron sent out her request, we got a data call from the Office of Insurance Regulation — a mandatory call. We had to shift gears to respond to that,” Peltier said Monday.
James, as a state-appointed advocate for Florida insurance consumers, has no authority to require companies to respond to requests for information. And information sent to her office can be requested by anyone under Florida’s public records laws.
The Office of Insurance Regulation, by contrast, can require companies to send data and can shield the data from release under a trade secrets exemption.
The fact that James’ office can’t keep data secret was a strong concern for members of the Florida Property & Casualty Association, an industry trade group, executive director William Stander said by email Monday.
“Because of the very specific nature of the claim file information being requested, our companies did have serious data privacy concerns … that likely was a factor in the companies’ decision-making,” Stander said.
Citizens, with nearly half of its policyholders in South Florida, has been the most vocal critic of a practice called assignment of benefits. That’s when policyholders sign over to repair companies the rights to pursue payment for their insurance claims.