A month after state lawmakers were called back to Tallahassee to fix a broken homeowners insurance industry in Florida, the crisis continues.
“While we’re sitting here today, we’re a little less than 19,000, but we’re fast approaching 19,000 lawsuits,” Elaine Paskalakis of the civil property insurance said during a meeting of the claims committee earlier this month.
Citizens, the state-backed insurer of last resort, not only faces rising lawsuits but also absorbs about 12,000 policies a month.
“Last year at this time they (citizens) grew by about 5,000 policies a week, so they are growing exponentially,” says State Senator Jeff Brendes (R-Pinellas). “They have about $ 6 billion in cash and about $ 300 billion in potential liability if they have a big storm.”
Due to rising police and lawsuits, Citizens recently approved $ 50 million in court costs, and the state-backed insurer must approve another $ 50 million when it meets in July.
“Citizens are all on deck, and frankly, I don’t know how they’re going to manage all of this, we’re never going to let a private insurance company grow as fast as citizens are growing right now,” Brandes says.
The rise in policies and lawsuits involving citizens underscores how volatile the homeowners ’insurance market in Florida remains, even after an emergency special session in May when lawmakers took a number of steps to stabilize the industry.
Although Florida’s precarious situation is now bad, lawmakers and council members agree it could worsen if a hurricane hits this season. Florida has not had to face a major hurricane since 2018, however lawsuits have increased and nearly a dozen private insurance companies have been liquidated. This will speed up when a storm comes.
“Let’s just pray that there isn’t a storm this year, because citizens will have to manage what could be a million policies by the end of the year, and I don’t know how they’re going to do that,” Brandes says.