Five weeks after three independent adjusters told Florida lawmakers that insurance carriers have frequently doctored their damage assessment reports, the men said they’ve had no contact from state agencies about the allegations. And they’re now disputing assertions from state officials who said the men never provided documentation.
“I haven’t heard anything,” said Ben Mandell, a Florida-licensed all-lines adjuster who testified at a Florida House Commerce Committee hearing Dec. 13.
“It looks like it’s being swept under the rug,” said Mark Vinson, an independent adjuster in Florida and Louisiana who also spoke at the legislative meeting.
Mandell and Vinson said that after the hearing, committee Chairman Rep. Bob Rommel invited them to his office. The adjusters had the documentation of the altered reports on a thumb drive, a small data storage device. But due to concerns about cyber security for state-owned computers, Rommel said he could not connect the drive to his office computers. He asked the men to print out their evidence.
“We have not heard from them since,” Rommel’s legislative aide, Kim Timm, said in an email this week.
Mandell disputed that, and said he has tried to contact Rommel’s office. He said the printout of the evidence would be voluminous, so he emailed some of the documents, then phoned, but has had no reply from Rommel’s staff.
Mandell produced a printout of a Dec. 14 email sent to Timm at Rommel’s office, which included photos of damage to a Florida home and Mandell’s signed damage estimate of $40,468.54. The email also included what Mandell said was an “altered” report, sent in November from the insurance carrier.
The carrier’s version, which still had Mandell’s name on it, had reduced the damages to $2,658, the adjuster said. That misleads the policyholder into thinking that an independent adjuster, not an insurance company representative, had found little or no damage to a property – a fraudulent practice by insurers, the adjusters have argued.
The adjuster’s and insurer’s actual reports were not provided to Insurance Journal because Mandell said his attorney has asked that names be kept out of it while he prepares a lawsuit against the carriers involved. Attorney Steven Bush, of Jacksonville, had promised to provide some documentation to Insurance Journal. But on Thursday, he said in an email only that the documents had been turned over to the “APA,” presumably the American Policyholders Association. The non-profit association could not be reached Thursday, but its website indicates it investigates fraud in the industry.
At the December legislative committee hearing, Rommel, R-Naples, said that if the allegations are true, that could constitute fraud by insurance companies and it should be investigated by the Florida attorney general’s office.
Mandell and Vinson said they have not heard from the attorney general, the Florida Department of Financial Services or other agencies that may be in a position to investigate. The communications director for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said Thursday that the office had received no correspondence about the matter.
A DFS spokesman said Thursday that the department had, in fact, investigated the adjusters’ assertions, but the investigation was closed “due to a lack of participation by witnesses.”
“I was never contacted by anyone from DFS,” Mandell said in an email. “I have phone logs.”
The DFS has now referred the case to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation as a possible market conduct violation by the insurance companies, said Devin Galetta, the DFS communications director.
The adjusters caused a stir last month when they spoke about the doctored damage reports. Independent adjusters, unlike public adjusters who solicit homeowners, are often hired by insurance companies to supplement in-house adjustment staff. Until now, many have been reluctant to speak out about the purported practices, fearing that they could lose out on insurance company business, Florida adjusters have said.
One insurance company named by the independent adjusters denied that it has engaged in the practice.
“That’s absolutely not the case with Universal,” Travis Miller, attorney for Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Co., said in December. “The company simply has never in its history had a practice of altering, manipulating or doctoring independent adjusters’ reports for delivery to insureds.”
But others have said the doctoring of reports is widespread by some insurers in Florida and other states. Mandell said he has found that about 80% of his damage assessments in 2022 were altered by insurance company desk adjusters, which has meant that many claims were underpaid or not paid at all.
The adjusters said they were disappointed the issue has not been examined further by regulators.
“You’d think that something would have been done about it,” Vinson said this week.
He said he’s now considering delivering printed copies of the altered inspection reports to Rommel’s office in Tallahassee.
Top photo: Mark Vinson at the House committee meeting Dec. 13. (House Commerce Committee/The Florida Channel)
Topics Carriers Florida
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Rabb is Southeast Editor for Insurance Journal. He is a long-time newspaper man in the Deep South; also covered workers’ comp insurance issues for a trade publication for a few years.
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