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.

Homeowners lose out in insurance battles with contractors

Homeowners in Florida may be facing elevated insurance costs, a change linked to an insurance provision in the state called Assignment of Benefits, or AOB. According to experts, the elevated rates are not linked to increased payouts due to storms, floods or other homeowners' claims. Instead, AOB allows homeowners to transfer the rights to their benefits to a third party. In most cases, this third party such as a roofer or contractor accepts the assignment as payment for work on a damaged home.

The Florida Justice Reform Institute said that lawsuits by contractors who had carried out work under AOB provisions had risen dramatically in the past decade. There were 4,986 such lawsuits in 2007, but in 2017, that number had risen to 129,781. Assignment of benefits cases now comprise 60 percent of all insurance litigation. Florida law also notes that insurance companies that lose in insurance lawsuits will need to pay the plaintiffs' attorney fees in addition to their own. This provision is meant to protect homeowners who face unjust claim denials from their insurance companies, but in AOB cases, it often functions in the interests of contractors.

What is the real value of your property damage?

You got your insurance policy so you would have enough money to replace everything you own in the event of property damage from a Florida natural disaster or other tragedy. Yet now that you have filed your claim, the insurance company is not offering you as much money as you thought you would get. Why?

Insurers are notorious for underpaying claims to protect their profits. They use multiple methods to lower the settlement amount you receive. One of these is how they determine the value of the property loss.

Florida man charged with DUI thought police car was an Uber

A 40-year-old Florida man who was taken into custody for DUI on the evening of Nov. 24 thought the patrol car taking him to jail was an Uber ride, according to media reports. Lee County Sheriff's Office deputies say that the man's evening took a turn for the worse when he rear-ended a car that was waiting at a red light near Cape Coral.

The accident took place at approximately 6:15 p.m. at the intersection of Summerlin Road and Pine Ridge Road. When LCSO deputies arrived at the scene and asked the man to produce his driver's license, they say he handed them a hotel key instead. He is also said to have told deputies that he did not remember crashing.

3 Alcohol laws you might not know

We all know that being over the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit while driving poses a threat to public safety and risks harsh penalties.

However, breaking the following lesser-known alcohol laws can also result in a tainted record. If you'll be out and about this holiday season, make sure you're careful not to violate these.

Looming expiration of National Flood Insurance threatens Florida

With the National Flood Insurance Program scheduled to expire at the end of November, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has pursued a six-month reauthorization from Congress. Many homeowners in the Sunshine State rely on this program that finances flood insurance in areas prone to flooding. The senator urged his colleagues to vote on the insurance extension bill as soon as possible and spare property owners from uncertainty.

In the view of an insurance agent working in the state, the loss of the federally funded insurance would create major problems for property owners. One homeowner in Cape Coral said she would not be able to sleep at night without flood insurance. Without the federal program, barriers might confront her if she tried to buy insurance from a commercial entity.

Costs of Hurricane Michael continue to rise

The costs of Hurricane Michael keep going up for Florida homeowners who were hit hard by the storm. Estimates of the damages caused by the hurricane in the Panhandle have been revised upwards to over $12 billion. That figure is twice the initial estimates made by analysts from the insurance industry. In addition, weather experts say that the hurricane might have been a category 5 storm rather than the category 4 designation it initially received.

The hurricane made landfall on Oct. 10, 2018, near Mexico Beach in Bay County. It hit Florida first before rampaging through Georgia and the Carolinas. Over 1.2 million homes were left without power due to hurricane damage, and 45 people lost their lives in the storm. The Panama City Medical Examiner released the names of 29 people who died in the storm, who ranged in age from 22 to 94.

More homeowners may need flood insurance

Homeowners in Florida may be increasingly encouraged to purchase flood insurance even if they do not reside in a high-risk area. On Oct. 29 at the annual meeting of the Property Casualty Insurers of America, insurance commissioners for the state as well as for Tennessee and South Carolina said that agents and carriers may need to start pushing customers toward this kind of protection.

According to the director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance, most of the holders of flood policies in the state live on the coast. However, most of the flooding in recent years, including that from Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Matthew, has occurred inland.

Seeking help after the storm

Residents who live in Hollywood, Florida, and other areas impacted by Hurricane Michael know all too well the devastation that occurred during and after the storm passed. Some officials have compared the destruction to that of Hurricane Andrew, but there are others who believe that the damage only extends as far as the core destruction zone.

There hasn't been a final count of how many buildings and homes were damaged during Hurricane Michael. At least 1,600 different properties were taken off of county tax registers in recent weeks. There have been over 117,000 insurance claims filed, many that have already been closed so that residents can begin the process of rebuilding. An estimated $2.9 billion in damages has been assessed across Hollywood and surrounding areas. Most insurance companies have settled claims quickly, but resources in the state are strained.

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