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Citizens: We weren't ready for major impact from Hurricane Matthew


An Oct. 5 news release declared: “Citizens is ready for Hurricane Matthew, Are You?”

Months later, Citizens — with 225,000 policyholders in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties — revealed it was not ready to respond to a major storm in South Florida. Companies Citizens had hired to provide independent claims adjusters for post-storm damage assessments supplied far fewer adjusters than Citizens requested.

Contracts with the four companies responsible for the 2016 adjuster shortfall have been terminated, and Citizens on Tuesday is scheduled to seek approval from its Board of Governors for a plan to create a new pool of adjusters.

According to the state Department of Financial Services’ database, 11,948 independent adjusters are certified in Florida to work for insurance companies, down from 29,022 in 2011.

In the four weeks after Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida in October 2005, Citizens dispatched nearly 2,000 adjusters to respond to more than 123,000 claims. Still, hundreds of homeowners complained to the state about delays.

Last October, when Hurricane Matthew threatened to make landfall near West Palm Beach, Citizens estimated the storm would generate 75,000 claims. Citizens asked four claims adjuster management firms to deploy 624 adjusters, Adams told the Board of Governors last year.

The firms committed just 279 adjusters, forcing Citizens — which employs only 64 year-round, full-time adjusters — to revise its preparations and hope for the best.

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