BAY COUNTY, Fla. — Since Hurricane Michael, a countless number of residents are fighting with insurance companies. Many of those battles are turning legal. 

Perry & Young Attorneys at Law are seeing a lot of insurance cases on their desks and Universal Property Casualty and Insurance Company (UPCIC) is one of the most frequent names they’re coming across.

“People have to make a decision. Are they going to file a lawsuit over a $5,000 difference, a $2500 dollar difference? Most likely not. Those lawsuits are going to come when there are $25,000 and $50,000 dollars at issue,” said attorney Larry Perry. 

The Ft. Lauderdale business is one of the largest insurance companies serving the area and as of June 2019, they have hundreds of cases against them.

Perry said, “when we did our check of the clerk of court website, there were almost 300 cases currently active against Universal Property and Casualty. Now I want to forewarn people, that also does with the AOB (assignment of benefits), but you got to figure at least 150 of those claims are from homeowners here in Bay County.”

He says the cases could move into two different directions. “In the pre-litigation phase, we’re doing our best to try and settle and resolve those claims prior to going into litigation. Litigation takes longer, it’s more expensive, it’s frustrating for the homeowner, especially when everybody is ready to get back in their home.”

Perry says, in their experience with UPCIC, cases are being settled. “We’ve had actually good results. The ones that we have right now are inactive pre-litigation, meaning we’re doing the final negotiations phase.”

News13 reached out to the business for comment. A spokesperson for UPCIC, Travis Miller, released this statement: 

“A key point to keep in mind when considering insurance-related litigation is that a vast majority of claims are resolved in the normal course of the claims adjusting process.  More than 90% of UPCIC’s claims have been fully resolved.  Of the remaining claims, most either were recently received or involve partial payments that have been issued while other portions of the claim are underway.  For example, a homeowner might have been paid for damage to his or her structure and additional living expenses but might need more time to develop a list of damaged contents.

Also, we note that the two insurers you mentioned as receiving more lawsuits than other insurers are the two largest writers of homeowners insurance in the Bay County area.  When an insurer has a larger presence in an area it likely will have more claims.  This, in turn, means the insurer will pay more money to more affected policyholders, allowing them to rebuild and recover.  Unfortunately, a larger number of claims also means the insurer might receive more suits than smaller insurers.

UPCIC is proud to have served the residents of Bay County for many years and to be among the leading providers of homeowners insurance in the area.  UPCIC has devoted and continues to devote, a substantial effort to resolving its remaining claims in Bay County and the surrounding areas.  UPCIC representatives were in Panama City immediately after Hurricane Michael and have attended every policyholder forum hosted by the Florida Department of Financial Services.  In addition to the company’s usual claims process, these forums have allowed policyholders to speak directly, in person, with UPCIC claims representatives.  We believe this has contributed greatly to UPCIC’s ability to assist policyholders after the storm.”

Another business receiving some heat, with 127 lawsuits this year is Federated National Security Company. We also reached out to them. Spokesperson Lisa Miller, Florida’s former Deputy Commissioner said,  “It’s a shame a handful of lawyers are taking 35% of a consumer’s claim dollars and pocketing it by filing frivolous lawsuits using the assignment of benefits scam.  The Florida legislature passed a law to stop this consumer abuse.”