When you are frustrated, upset or angry that the insurance company you paid premiums to denies your claim, you may first think that the place to go for justice is to State government. After all, the State regulates insurance companies, right? Take it right to the top. To the Insurance Commissioner! You’ll show the insurance company that you aren’t going away quietly in the night, tail between your legs.
First off, there is no “Department of Insurance” in Florida. In 2003 the Florida Department of Insurance was merged with the Department of Treasury, State Fire Marshal and the Department of Banking and Finance into the Department of Financial Services (“DFS”). In charge of these is the Chief Financial Officer of the State. Presently that is Jeff Atwater. The DFS is made up of 13 divisions, including The Division of Consumer Services where insurance complaints are handled.
You can file your complaint online, via email or by telephone call. If you file online, you will create an account and navigate through a fillable form before clicking “submit”. If you call, you will give your information to a friendly clerk. The information you need to supply includes your insurance company name, policy number, claim number, contact information and a detailed description of your claim and dispute.
Okay, so you filed your official complaint with the DFS Division of Consumer Services. What should you expect to happen once your complaint is filed with the DFS? Are you expecting that the DFS discusses your issue with the claim adjuster and argues your position? Are you expecting that the DFS will tell the insurance company why it was wrong to deny your claim, and that it should pay your claim and apologize for your inconvenience and mental anguish?
What you need to know is that as an administrative agency, the DFS, Division of Consumer Services, does not have the jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes of fact or law. While the DFS consumer complaint clerks will generally be sympathetic to your cause, they only are able to ask the insurance company for its position, which in most cases you already know based on a claim denial letter from the adjuster. Once the insurance company responds to the assigned clerk, your complaint file will be closed as “resolved”.
When your complaint is deemed resolved and your file closed by the DFS Division of Consumer Services you will get a letter, thanking you for contacting the DFS and letting you know that your insurance company has not changed its position. The DFS will also advise that if you of two other remedies available, DFS mediation1 or consultation with a lawyer. The standard DFS complaint response/closing letter states, “You may be able to pursue the matter through the legal system. Should you decide to explore this option, you will need to consult with an attorney to determine your rights and options.”
The time you spend waiting to get a response to your complaint from the DFS may be months. This is time when you should be taking steps to preserve your legal rights against the insurance company. Any delay works only to the advantage of your insurance company. Evidence crucial to your claim may be lost or destroyed by temporary or other repair work, and your right to pursue your claim in court may be lost.
If you want to file a DFS consumer complaint against your insurance company, do that right away. But also contact an experienced Florida property insurance lawyer for a free consultation.
1 See our March 21, 2017 blog post describing the DFS Residential Property Mediation process.