WASHINGTON Oct 14 Property damage caused by
Hurricane Matthew has spawned over $218 million in insurance
claims so far in Florida, according to state officials, much
less than the multi-billion dollar toll initially feared, but
the figure is expected to rise.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said in response
to a Reuters query there had been more than 39,000 claims
statewide as of Tuesday, about 90 percent of them for damage to
"We anticipate this number will grow as consumers return to
their homes and assess the damage to their property and
belongings," said Karen Kees, a spokeswoman for the state
regulator. "It will take time for this process to be complete."
Matthew, which approached the Florida coast last week as a
powerful Category 4 hurricane and killed more than 1,000 people
in Haiti, stirred initial concern about the ability of Florida's
private insurance market to cope with the aftermath.
It was the first hurricane to test the small private
insurers that have come to dominate Florida's market over the
past decade, as larger insurance companies pulled out after a
series of powerful storms.
Analysts initially feared Matthew would become one of the
costliest U.S. hurricanes, with insurance losses of $25 billion
to $30 billion.
But the storm weakened as it neared the U.S. mainland and
its center remained off the Florida coast, sparing local
residents from more devastating damage.
Only 650 claims had been paid, while more than 1,000 others
had been closed but not paid. That left about 37,000 claims
open, according to state officials, who said many of those could
be for substantial damage and will take time to resolve.
Florida officials said more than 200 insurers reported
receiving Matthew-related claims. The greatest number of claims
were filed in Volusia, Duval and Brevard counties, which
encompass Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne
and Cape Canaveral.
Less than 5 percent, or about 1,800 claims, were for flood
damage, a storm-related danger that is usually covered by the
government's National Federal Insurance Program.
Claims that were closed and not paid could suggest that some
policies did not cover flood damage or that damage did not meet
the policy's hurricane deductible, Kees said in an email
response to questions submitted by Reuters.
"We believe the insurance companies are working diligently
to resolve claims as fast as they can," she added.
(Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh, Writing by David Morgan, Editing
by Julia Edwards and Phil Berlowitz)