Thousands of Puerto Ricans have been forced to drain their savings, close their businesses, or resign themselves to living with structural damage as they fight insurance companies over millions of dollars’ worth of claims that have gone unanswered or unpaid more than a year after Hurricane Maria.
Experts say the Category 4 storm caught insurance companies off-guard and left them reeling financially after they were hit with nearly 279,000 claims, a number that one expert called “extraordinary.” One major insurer has already folded, leaving more than 1,500 claims worth a total of $70 million up in the air. Many worry other companies might follow.
Iraelia Pernas, the General Manager of the Association of Insurance Companies in Puerto Rico, said that astr Industry does not face such astronomical claims. Porto S No one was prepared for this, not the federal government, not the insurance companies, not anyone. “
The Puerto Rico Insurance Commissioner’s Office has fined a total of more than $ 2.4 million, including delays in compensation and compensation payments to at least seven companies. All the companies in the US have bought reinsurance, but were inadequate for some.
Commissioner Javier Rivera said it was too early to tell what would happen with the folding company Real Legacy. However, he believes the other company, which exceeds the reinsurance limits, has sufficient capital to prevent a similar fate.
”There will always be a risk that some claims cannot be addressed,“ he said. “But we’ll do everything possible.“
Michael Barry, a New York-based, nonprofit Insurance Information Institute, said it was too unusual to overstep the reinsurance limits: . ”
Two insurance companies in Puerto Rico are under investigation with negative effects, he said. Brian O A.Larte, property manager and A.M. Best of all, a insurance rating firm.
Hurricane Maria has been the strongest storm in Puerto Rico for nearly a century, causing more than $ 100 billion in damage in the midst of a 12-year recession, destroying the electricity grid and forcing businesses to remain closed for months. In general, according to a report by Swiss Re, a Swiss-based reinsurance company, Swiss Re, the most expensive disaster for the Swiss insurance sector, the hurricane inflicted 32 billion dollars more damage than Irma and Harvey.
According to a report by the Puerto Rico government, insurance companies in Puerto Rico paid a total of $ 4.4 billion, but more than 13,600 requests were not closed. The report shows that 65 percent of the total claims are closed with payment and 30 percent is closed without payment.
The commissary office recently launched an inspection of all companies, and Rivera refused to give them their name, but said they looked more closely than others. His office received about 1,600 complaints, which is almost three times his report in a regular year.
Insurance companies Pernas, insurance companies for two years, followed by Hurricane Georges, a category 3 hurricane in 1998, said they had to pay a total of $ 1.2 billion. In addition, Maria’s pending claims are complex and a large majority of businesses, municipalities, government agencies and condominiums.
Den They’re great because they need to be carefully reviewed, “he said.
According to Barry, the number of pending claims is normal for a disaster of this magnitude, but cases have already been filed.
Den A group of lawyers, Lee Sepulvado, who filed suit cases, said, an We’re talking about lost jobs. “ ”This clearly affects people’s lives.“
Edwin Rosario is forced to close a job: He opened a restaurant in the northern coastal town of Dorado, which he had opened four years ago. The 48-year notice exceeded half a million dollars, but he only received $ 93,000 from the insurance company, collected all his savings, sold his house and transferred his daughter to a more suitable school.
She expects to decide whether to leave Puerto Rico until December and whether she will join the estimated 155,000 people who travel to the US mainland after the hurricane.
Rosario was an incredibly frustrating process, she said. Rosario remembered the moment she entered her restaurant and saw the damage. Lam It was one of the few times when I sat and cried. “
Last month, Gov. Ricardo Rossello’s administration has sued several insurance companies, saying authorities have not responded quickly to cases opened after Hurricane Maria. They said the lawsuits were aimed at preventing claims from falling because they claimed the companies had expired. The cases also demand compensation of $ 2.6 billion for those who have not been compensated.
Und What’s happening in Puerto Rico is very, very serious,, said the lawyer Francisco Amundaray, representing many customers who want to get a response from insurance companies. ”Companies refuse to pay absolute claims because they are not prepared for such an event.“
Lilliana Sanchez, who owns a pharmacy in the southern coastal town of Salinas, is among those waiting for full payment. Her husband lost part of her hand trying to fix a broken generator that was $ 30,000 insured.
Sanchez has reported a total loss of $ 50,000 since Maria and has since been forced to renew her home, canceled her daughter’s college residence, reduced her staff from the pharmacy, and reduced her working hours. He gave the insurance company the right to claim a few times.
”They’re just saying they’re processed,“ he said.
Legally, insurance companies in Puerto Rico have 90 days to resolve a claim. Sanchez said on 18 November he had made his first claim 10 days after the shooting of Hurricane Maria.
Pernas said companies are making changes to their emergency plans and expect to fly in the prosecution before any major storm in the future.
For now, the northern coastal town of Loiza is among the municipalities affected by the delay. Nine basketball courts were destroyed, including those on the ground with collapsed roof. A quarterly tarp still covers part of Loiza’s town hall, and now the city council meets in a rented house. Mayor Julia Nazario said Maria caused more than $ 14 million in damages, but the Real Heritage paid only a $ 9 million dollar indemnity compensation of half a million dollars.
Edil None of our facilities were repaired, “he said. “We have no money”
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