Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has launched a multi-faceted education campaign in an attempt to improve customer claims handling while taking steps to combat what it has called a disturbing increase of fraud and abuse that threatens to drive up premiums across the state, the company said in a statement.
The Call Citizens First campaign will focus on educating policyholders and agents about contacting Citizens immediately after any type of loss to their property while reminding customers that fraud, abuse and other factors can increase property insurance costs.
“Call Citizens First benefits our policyholders by keeping them in the driver’s seat regarding their claims while proving long-term savings that helps everyone,” said Chris Gardner, chairman of Citizens Board of Governors.
The campaign, which kicked off at the beginning of the year, will include policyholder mailings, social media messages and additional public outreach.
“Recovering from a loss to your property is a difficult time for anyone,” said Christine Ashburn, Citizens’ vice president of Communications, Legislative and External Affairs. “Call Citizens First is an effort to ensure that the first step gets everything on track for our policyholders. Making that one call puts the policyholder in touch with a person to report their claim and instills trust that the report will be handled professionally and correctly from start to finish.”
In February, all new and renewal personal lines policies will begin receiving a Citizens ID card with their policy declaration packets. The wallet-sized card will include policy and agent information, along with claims hotline and customer care numbers.
A brochure which explains the claims reporting process will also be included with policy documents. Citizens said the brochure provides an overview of what to expect once a claim has been filed. It is available in both English and Spanish on the state-run insurer’s website.
“Calling Citizens first not only ensures covered damage is repaired quickly bringing peace of mind to our policyholders in times of need,” Ashburn said, “But it also helps to keep costs as low as possible to reduce the need for rate increases for everyone and guarantees Citizens will remain a stable and affordable insurer for those who need us.”
In recent years, the company said it has seen a flood of water-damage claims and associated litigation, particularly in Miami-Dade County, where water-loss claims now account for more than half of every premium dollar collected. Citizens said the issue, though concentrated in South Florida, is spreading throughout the state.
In 2014, Citizens said about 40 percent of policyholders filing water-loss claims in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties hired third parties such as attorneys and/or public adjusters even before filing an initial claim with the insurer, and they often signed agreements assigning benefits to the third party.
A review conducted for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation found that such assignment of benefit agreements lead more frequently to litigation, which increases the cost of the claim to nearly four times that of a non-litigated, non-assigned claim, the insurer said.
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