Oct. 13--Policyholders recovering from Hurricane Matthew filed about 34,300 insurance claims since Sunday night, bringing the statewide total through Wednesday morning to 39,302, according to the state Office of Insurance Regulation.
So far, 76.1 percent of all claims were filed in five coastal counties in the northern half of the state that were hit hardest by the storm, the tally shows. They are Volusia (11,955), Duval (6,536), Brevard (5,499), St. Johns (3,654) and Flagler (2,273).
Just 856 claims, or 2.2 percent, came from South Florida, which escaped the brunt of Matthew on Oct. 6 when the storm emerged from the Bahamas further east than expected before heading northwest toward the state.
Estimated value of all claims in the tally was $218 million. The count includes data from 207 insurance companies, the office's website states.
The state's tally included 1,997 claims by customers of state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. The so-called "insurer of last resort" avoided more claims because private-market insurers have a larger market share in the northern part of the state, while Citizens remains South Florida's largest insurer by default because fewer companies want to write policies here.
A sense of relief imbued a meeting in St. Augustine on Wednesday attended by Jeff Atwater, the state's chief financial officer, and insurance executives who were in the area to inspect the damage, said Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier.
"Everyone there today had the feeling we had dodged a bullet," Peltier said. "The initial projections were much worse than what we were seeing."
Much of the damage in the hardest-hit counties resulted from the storm surge and not wind, requiring many property owners to pursue claims through the National Flood Insurance Program -- if they have flood insurance, said Jeff Grady, president of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents. According to the state's tally, 1,827 flood insurance claims were filed through Wednesday morning.
Many flood victims weren't covered, Grady said, because they didn't live in high flood-risk areas where coverage is required by their mortgage holder. "Most people don't buy flood insurance if it's not required," he said.
As bad as the storm surge was in St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, comparatively little structural damage has been reported, Grady said. "Most has been more cosmetic, and those are typically paid under the deductible, meaning they will fall short of an insurance reimbursement."
A $200,000 home with a 2 percent hurricane deductible would have to sustain $4,000 worth of damage before the owner would get a check from the insurance company, Grady said. Some homeowners opted for cheaper premiums by taking a 5 percent deductible. So an owner of a $200,000 home with a 5 percent deductible would be responsible for the first $10,000 in wind damage, he said.
Explaining these unwelcome policy provisions to homeowners "is where agents earn their money," Grady said. "They are the ones in the trenches sorting through these issues with their customers."
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