Insurers trying to settle storm claims

September 28, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- About half of State Farm's hurricane-damaged policyholders are still waiting for a claims adjuster, five weeks after Hurricane Andrew raged across South Dade County.

That, some furious policyholders say, is entirely unacceptable.

That, says South Florida's biggest insurer, is the best it can do under such extraordinary conditions.

Even state regulators are wondering whether State Farm can meet an Oct. 15 deadline for an adjuster to visit every customer who had filed claims by Sept. 15.

"It is my impression that State Farm has not had as many adjusters visiting properties as we would like," said Jill Chamberlin, a spokeswoman for the Florida Insurance Department. "But everybody has to be a little patient. This hurricane is putting an extraordinary toll on every player in this drama."

No player will be tested like State Farm, the nation's biggest underwriter of home and auto policies. The Bloomington, Ill., company is widely regarded as one of the best-managed in the nation.

The company is Dade County's largest insurer by a wide margin, handling about 1 of every 5 homeowner policies. So far, nearly 94,000 people have filed property-damage claims with State Farm. As of late Friday, about 49,000 had seen an adjuster; 45,000 had not.

Before Andrew, State Farm had fewer than 60 property adjusters -- called "claims representatives" by the company -- in Dade County. Today, State Farm has 2,900 people in the county, with about 1,600 of them adjusters -- people trained to assess damage to homes and property.

"We have never deployed these numbers of people before," said Mark Odland, vice president of claims for State Farm Fire and Casualty. "After five weeks, we think we're right on the money."

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