New program helps Florida residents prepare for hurricane season

The Prepare Florida program will help residents of the state take measures to protect themselves before a major storm hits. Taking action prior to hurricane season can be important because hurricanes can often form and make landfall with little warning. Ideally, Florida residents will have an emergency kit that will make it possible to organize financial and other information in one place. The program also offers advice about how to find insurance and how to file a claim.

Hurricane season traditionally begins in June and lasts for six months. In 2019, roughly eight hurricanes are predicted to form in the Atlantic, and the total could be as high as 15 according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Of those hurricanes that ultimately form, up to four of them could be labeled as major storms. Those hurricanes could have winds of 111 miles per hour or higher.

Flood program receives another extension

Florida residents may be interested to know that the U.S. House of Representatives approved on May 30 a short-term continuation of the flood insurance program through June 14. This was after the House failed to reauthorize the program as part of a $19 billion disaster aid bill. The same broader bill has already been cleared in the Senate. If it passed the House, it would have kept the program going until Sept. 30.

Republican objection to the bill was what caused it to fail in the House as it has been voted under a unanimous consent standard. Ultimately, it only took one member voting against the proposal to prevent its approval. The objection to the bill came even as the president said that he supported it, and it was likely that it would be passed on June 3 when the House comes back to session. According to the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), the short-term extension creates a level of uncertainty as hurricane season approaches.

Do family health issues signal a Chinese drywall problem?

Perhaps you remember the Chinese drywall kerfuffle that occurred during the post-Hurricane Katrina housing boom. The health issues that residents developed helped bring the problem to light.

If yours is a post-Katrina-era home, your family members may experience symptoms that could indicate a Chinese drywall issue.

Florida woman involved in DUI crash sentenced to 11 years

A 45-year-old Florida woman was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment on May 16 a year and a day after she was involved in a fatal drunk driving crash. The case attracted national attention when a mugshot taken just hours after the accident showed the woman smiling broadly. The woman's demeanor was very different during the sentencing hearing as she tearfully apologized to the family of the 60-year-old woman who was killed and asked the judge to show her leniency.

The accident took place at the intersection of Northwest 60th Avenue and U.S. Route 27 in Ocala. According to police, a Hyundai sedan was struck from the rear as it waited at a red light by a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by the woman. The sedan was struck with such force that it was pushed into the back of a horse trailer. A female passenger in the Hyundai was badly hurt in the accident and succumbed to her injuries four days later at the Ocala Regional Medical Center.

AAA survey examines attitudes about hurricanes

A new AAA survey found that more than 90% of people in Florida are concerned about the upcoming hurricane season. Nearly 20% said they are more worried about it than they were a year ago. Five recent major storms in the state have racked up over $200 billion in damages.

Despite the apprehension, almost 25% of people said they had not done any preparation for a hurricane or major storm. Nearly two-thirds of the 79% who said they would evacuate in the event of a hurricane said they would only leave if the storm was at least a category 3. More than half said they were somewhat or very concerned about flooding, but 73% did not have flood insurance. More than one in five did not realize that homeowners insurance does not cover flooding, and almost 50% did not know that flood insurance has a 30-day waiting period before it takes effect.

Avoiding underpayment for your homeowner’s insurance claim

When you file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company, you probably expect that your insurer will pay for the damages your home suffered in their entirety. Because insurance companies are out to make a profit, though, it is common for them to try to “lowball” your claim by underpaying it. In some cases, your insurer may try to not pay your claim at all, in which case you may have to go to battle against it to get everything you deserve.

According to SmartAsset, only about 10% of today’s homeowner’s insurance policy carriers work to make sure homeowners receive the money they deserve, which means the other 90% often wind up with solutions that ultimately favor the insurance company. So, is there anything you can do to avoid an underpayment of your homeowner’s insurance claim?

3 factors that can impact Breathalyzer accuracy

Drunk driving is a serious offense in Florida, and the state’s penalties for driving under the influence are some of the most stringent in the country. Even first-time offenders will face jail time, fines, driver’s license revocations and additional penalties, all of which can make day-to-day life increasingly difficult to manage. In other words, the results of the breath test you take when authorities stop you can impact numerous aspects of your life. It is unfortunate that so many outside factors can impact the accuracy of Breathalyzer devices.

Just what types of factors can cause false Breathalyzer readings?

FEMA says more people need flood insurance

Another hurricane in Florida in the season ahead may dangerously overburden the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which already has more than 50 of what is called "open disaster events". FEMA has faced criticism for its response to hurricanes and other natural disasters, but the agency says people need to protect themselves more with insurance.

FEMA is looking at the rising sea levels that accompany climate changes and predicting more flooding and other disastrous events. If more people carried flood insurance, these events would be less costly for the government. The chief executive of the National Flood Insurance Program says homeowners need to realize that their homeowners insurance policies do not cover floods. They must take out that coverage separately.

Florida legislature passes insurance reform bill

Florida lawmakers have passed a bill that the insurance industry claims wil modernize the state's system and limit certain types of lawsuits. This comes as many Florida homeowners are still struggling with claims filed for hurricane damage and other types of problems caused by severe weather. House Bill 301 addressed a number of issues related to the state's insurance industry and could be a mixed bag for insured homeowners.

Among other changes, the bill changes the amount of reimbursement that insurers can receive for adjustment expenses from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. This trust fund reimburses insurers for a percentage of covered residential hurricane losses. All insurance companies in Florida must enter contracts with the fund, given the number of serious homeowners' insurance claims related to hurricane damage. In the past, adjustment expenses were reimbursed to insurers at 5%, a sum that will increase to 10% under the legislation.

Nearly 90% of homeowners don't carry enough flood insurance

The vast majority of homeowners around the country don't have enough flood insurance, according to a report by ValuePenguin.com. However, the financial website found that Florida has the second highest percentage of residents with flood coverage in the nation.

The report found that 75% of American adults believe that hurricanes, heavy rainstorms and other severe weather events are increasing and over 40% have personally experienced weather-related damage to their properties. Meanwhile, even though 91% of American homeowners carry property insurance, only 7% carry flood insurance policies. The report also found that the percentage of property owners carrying flood insurance varied significantly by state. For example, Louisiana and Florida lead the nation in coverage, with 44% and 36% of residents carrying flood insurance, respectively. Hawaii, South Carolina and New Jersey residents are next, with 23%, 16% and 11% of residents carrying flood insurance, respectively. Meanwhile, Minnesota and Utah are tied for the lowest percentage of homeowners with flood insurance, with just 0.6% of residents carrying policies. Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio also have low rates, with 0.8%, 0.8% and 1.1% carrying insurance, respectively.

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