TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Insurance adjusters told 8 On Your Side that their reports were being altered and homeowners were paying the price.
The allegations led to two state investigations, but nearly a year later, we’re still waiting for answers.
The question: Will insurance companies get the same scrutiny that the state has given to homeowners, adjusters and contractors?
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi is checking up on promises made.
To respond to these allegations, Florida did two things: They passed a law stating that insurance companies cannot lower estimates, secretly. The state also launched investigations into these specific companies accused of wrongdoing.
To date, there has been no action, fine, or penalty against any company.
“They seem to go after everybody but the actual insurance companies,” said Ben Mandell, a licensed, independent adjuster.
He works on behalf of insurance companies.
Last year, after Hurricane Ian, on Dec. 13, Mandell went before lawmakers in Tallahassee.
His testimony was shocking.
“The insurance companies were directing the file reviewers to change my estimates,” he said.
Mandell claimed his estimates were secretly altered to reduce payouts to storm victims.
Gov. Ron DeSantis launched two investigations.
Florida’s top insurance regulator, Michael Yaworsky, and Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, both on the case.
Now, nearly 10 months after these claims came to light, there’s no conclusion.
The investigations are still open and ongoing.
Mandell says the delay is unacceptable.
“So, we’ve got a situation where they’re going after public adjusters, quickly. I mean it happens within days,” he said. “The same thing is going on with the roofing companies.”
“They’re going after everything else, and they do it very, very quickly, except when they’re going after the insurance companies,” he said.
But is that true?
8 On Your Side searched the CFO’s website, going back to Hurricane Ian.
We found Jimmy Patronis is targeting property insurance fraud.
In the past year, Patronis’ Office has arrested one agent, three contractors, four adjusters, seven homeowners, and that’s it.
8 On Your Side asked why the investigation into these insurance companies was still ongoing, with no conclusion.
Patronis’ spokesman sent us the following statement: “Insurance fraud cases are complex, and every case is unique. Investigation times vary based on several factors, including witness testimony, evidence-gathering, and financial forensic analysis. The Department ensures that fraud cases are investigated thoroughly so that the case is more likely to garner a conviction when submitted for prosecution.”
Mandell says he will continue to push for answers and accountability.
In the meantime, he has seen positive changes in the industry.
“So the biggest part that I’ve seen is when we are creating an estimate these days and there needs to be a change on it, they don’t change it on their own or the insurance company is not changing it. We are making all of those changes,” he said.
“It’s just what they should’ve been doing all along,” he said.
Officials have not charged any insurance company with wrongdoing. These are simply allegations.
The new law, the so-called Insurer Accountability Act, specifically states that if a company lowers an estimate, they have to be transparent and explain why.
Finally, Commissioner Yaworsky’s office has not answered questions about what changes insurance companies can or cannot make to estimates.
In a statement Friday, an OIR spokeswoman stated: “Our investigations also continue to be ongoing. We continue to review and analyze information provided to us by the Department of Financial Services Division of Consumer Services, direct consumer complaints, legislators, insurance agents, industry stakeholders and other data sources as we conduct these investigations.”
8 On Your Side will stay on this.
If you have a tip, comment or question for Mahsa, send her an email to MSaeidi@WFLA.com.