The aftermath of Hurricane Michael

Having hit Florida, Hurricane Michael has caused damages worth 10$ billion to $12 billion according to insurance analysts. That being said, there have been around 137,000 insurance claims filed so far, totaling $5 billion, $1.5 billion of which was for agricultural land. This is not to mention the human cost, which includes the death of 43 individuals and the evacuation of 375,000 others. As a result, the state of Florida has a long way to go in order to recover from this catastrophe.

Of the $1.5 billion loss that agricultural lands suffered, cattle farmers lost $43.31 million, peanuts farmers lost $23 million, and vegetable farmers lost $8.61 million. However, with a loss of $1.3 billion and the devastation of 350,000 acres of land, the timber industry has lost the most. What's more, the decimation of the timber industry has left the forests riddled with dead wood, making them more susceptible to spring wildfires. Ergo, timber operators believe that this debris must be removed as soon as possible so as to avoid any further catastrophes.

Stricter laws might reduce drunk driving deaths

In the state of Florida, a driver is legally drunk if his or her blood alcohol content is .08 percent or higher. However, a panel of scientists has recommended that the threshold be lowered to .05 percent. This threshold applies in Utah and more than 100 European countries. To reach a BAC of .05 percent, a woman weighing over 120 pounds would likely need to consume two drinks in an hour. The same would be true of a man weighing roughly 160 pounds.

Men weighing over 180 pounds could typically consume three drinks before reaching this threshold. In addition to decreasing the alcohol threshold, the panel from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggested making alcohol harder to acquire. This could mean cutting back on the number of hours during which it could be sold. It might also mean restricting how it could be marketed and where it may be sold to consumers.

Commissioner urges insurers to close Hurricane Michael claims

Hurricane Michael caused widespread damage throughout the Florida Panhandle in the fall of 2018, so it's no surprise that thousands of insurance claims were filed. However, Florida's Insurance Commissioner is urging insurers in The Sunshine State to close undisputed claims more efficiently. In a memorandum, he reminded property and casualty insurers of a Florida statute that requires them to pay undisputed claims or partial full benefits within 90 days of the date they were first notified of those claims.

The memorandum from the commissioner also states the need for companies handling business and homeowners' insurance claims related to the storm to have sufficient resources in place to facilitate the claims process. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation estimates that insured losses from the storm passed the $4 billion mark by December of 2018. Nearly 70 percent of all claims for both residential and commercial properties and lines of business related to the Category 5 hurricane have been closed.

What to do after a small house fire

Experiencing a house fire is frightening, even if it is a small one that does not consume the whole residence. However, even little fires can cause large damage.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may not know what to do or where to start after calling emergency responders. Take these steps to be on your way to getting your life back in order.

Some Hurricane Irma victims still battling insurance companies

The good news for most Florida homeowners with property that was damaged as a result of Hurricane Irma is that more than 90 percent of claims related to this devastating storm have been closed. However, the industry funded Insurance Information Institute reports that there are still thousands of Floridians wrangling with their insurance providers over filed claims related to Irma. One woman with a damaged roof, for instance, had to wait for more than a year to receive a satisfactory claim payment after initially receiving a lower payment that didn't fully cover the repair expenses.

A representative from the Insurance Information Institute notes that more than $11 billion in homeowners' insurance claims related to Irma have already been paid out. As for the reasons for some of the lingering claim issues, one theory is that there may be out-of-state adjusters who aren't familiar with local construction costs in the areas of Florida affected by the 2017 storm. It's estimated that as many as 80,000 homeowners in The Sunshine State have lingering storm-related insurance issues.

Understanding first-time DUI charges in Florida

A driving under the influence (DUI) charge is what a Florida driver may face if they are pulled over for being suspected of operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While each jurisdiction in The Sunshine State has procedures in place for first-time DUI charges, the process generally involves being arrested and spending some time in jail. Depending the circumstances involved, a judge may allow a charged individual to be released on bail as long as they agree to remain in the area until a scheduled hearing takes place.

When first pulled over, an individual may be asked to take a breath test called a Breathalyzer and perform certain types of field sobriety tests at the scene. A blood alcohol content (BAC) test may also be required. Regardless of whether or not an individual admits to being intoxicated, someone suspected of drunk driving will likely spend some time in jail - which can range anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on what rules apply in a specific jurisdiction. At the very least, the charged individual normally remains in jail until they are no longer under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Hurricane Michael changes Florida's financial outlook

In large part to Hurricane Michael, a projected Florida budget surplus for 2019-2020 is likely going to be reduced or disappear completely. Officials say that storm impacted a part of the state that was already facing economic problems before it hit. Generally speaking, the storm impacted rural areas that had higher rates of poverty. This is in contrast to Hurricane Irma, which hit parts of the state that officials say were likely better able to handle a large recovery effort.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that the state will see a boost in sales tax revenue during the recovery effort. This is because homes in the regions hardest hit didn't have mortgages, and this meant that they generally didn't have insurance. Therefore, storm victims may not have the resources to buy appliances or other big-ticket items. Conversely, the state said that it collected $354 million in additional sales taxes after Irma struck.

Business owners face post-hurricane difficulties

Hurricane damage has been seriously devastating to many local Florida businesses, especially when their insurance policies delay or deny payments on their business insurance coverage. For businesses with significant exposure to the outdoors or impacted stock, hurricane damage can be particularly damaging. Golf courses are some local businesses that have been seriously affected by the results of the storm, especially when they are family owned, without the financing or support of a larger chain to fill in the gaps while waiting for insurance.

Hurricane Michael brought 140 mph bursts of wind to Florida areas, even those relatively distant from the Gulf of Mexico. Homes and businesses had protective plywood torn from the exteriors, windows and doors damaged or torn off and significant structural damage. For days and weeks after the storm, communities had no electricity or running water and even limited mobile phone services. At one golf course alone, nearly 5,000 trees were lost as a result of the storm, and the owners needed to pay $100 for each removal, amounting to a large percentage of annual revenues. While business insurance coverage can address building damage, many policies don't provide reimbursement for trees brought down in a storm.

Drunk driving common among veterans

Florida veterans concerned about drunk driving charges should know they are not alone. According to a study by the American Addiction Centers, in recent years, both binge drinking and drunk driving have become far more common among the U.S. veteran population. The study looked closely at the reasons for the spike and determined that emotional and physical trauma is largely to blame for this type of substance abuse.

According to the study, veteran rates of binge drinking have climbed an average of nearly 2 percent over a four-year period. Binge consumption among female veterans increased by nearly 3 percent. However, rates of drunk driving were much higher among male veterans. In the same time period, the percentage of veterans charged with drunk driving increased nearly 1 percent. Veteran drunk driving was the most severe in Washington, D.C., Kentucky and California. Alaska, Utah and Virginia were the three states with the lowest rates.

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