Monday’s town hall meeting had its inception at a small gathering for business owners impacted by Hurricane Michael.
Hosted by the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce, as with Monday’s town hall, the focus of that first gathering was providing as much information as possible about property damage and insurance claims.
Monday, attorney Larry Moskowitz and his team, including an engineer and former head of the state association of insurance adjusters, will offer a third informational session, 6-8 p.m. ET at the Port St. Joe City Commission meeting chamber on Garrison Ave.
The town hall is free and open to all residents.
“I found that this demographic of people are not used to insurance companies, never filed a claim, never dealt with insurance companies,” Moskowitz said, noting that when he polled the audience at the first meeting just one person raised their hand as having filed a property insurance claim.
“In addition, none of the vendors we have dealt with in Panama City are prepared to deal with insurance companies. They simply don’t know how. They don’t have the expertise.”
What is the difference between a field adjuster, desk adjuster and an independent adjuster?
How to handle mold issues? Inventory contents?
Are you aware in Florida if you are represented by a lawyer in such a claim and win, attorney’s fees are awarded above and beyond the claim?
“We want to get the information out,” Moskowitz said. “This is what I do for a living, but, say, only 5 percent of those in attendance end up hiring me, that’s fine.
“I feel good about what I am doing by providing the information.”
Moskowitz has been practicing law for 29 years and specialized in property damage claims following hurricanes the past 14 years.
Now, he is working in Bay and Gulf counties in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
Moskowitz said after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, residents and businesses filed and were paid fairly quickly by national insurance companies.
Lives could be rebuilt at relatively breezy pace.
However, he added, since Andrew those national companies tend to stay out of Florida, leaving local and regional insurance companies to fill the void.
“The landscape has drastically changed since Andrew,” he said.
Companies have 90 days to underpay, deny or pay the claim and too often, Moskowitz said, the goal is to deny or underpay claims with an idea of “circling back” in later months and years, if ever.
Adjusters sent to assess damage claims also too often lack full information concerning Florida laws and building codes.
Builders and other contractors don’t fully understand the fine print in insurance policies and Florida law and the result, Moskowitz said, is “a big mess.”
“Two things I really love about working up here; one, the community has really come together even as the rest of the country has forgotten us,” Moskowitz said. “You don’t see anything on the news about it.
“Second, once I am done with my two or three hours, people are coming up thanking me. They didn’t know about this stuff.”
Toss into the consideration the hundreds of contractors who have arrived from all over the country, and a secondary goal of the town hall is assembling something of a survival kit for navigating recovery and rebuilding through what is rendered a minefield.
“What I want to make sure is these people have enough tools in their tool box to look out for the thieves in this process,” Moskowitz said.