Sun Sentinel House Keys Blog: Sawgrass policyholders won’t hire their own claims reps

Oct 19, 2010

The following blog was posted to the Sun Sentinel House Keys blog on October 19, 2010: 

Sawgrass Mutual Insurance policyholders have voted to bar themselves from using public insurance adjusters, who represent policyholders in claims disputes with insurers.

Davie-based Sawgrass, which has about 12,000 policies, is a mutual company so policyholders own the company. The plan – aimed at saving money on claims costs – was approved today with 72 percent of the policyholders in favor of it. About 1,134 policyholders, or more than 9 percent, voted which is comparable to voter turnout rates for general elections.

“As a mutual, Sawgrass Mutual is unique in the Florida property insurance marketplace. The members’ right to determine the fate of this proposal via a vote is a good example of this,” wrote Sawgrass President James Esse. “Given the mandate of the members, Sawgrass Mutual will implement this change.”

In a letter last month to policyholders about the idea, Sawgrass said public adjusters may exaggerate damages because their fees are based on a percentage of the claims. He wrote that claims involving public adjusters “frequently take substantially longer” to settle.

Public adjusters note that the letter did not provide Sawgrass policyholders with the benefits of hiring a public adjuster: to help level the playing field between consumers who may not understand the nuances of insurance policies and insurers with vast resources to fight claims.

“I’ve represented many public adjusters…and in 14 years, I have seen more good than bad in their representation of consumers,” Gene Veno, president of the American Association of Public Insurance Adjusters.

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