Florida’s Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company Fined 1.26 Million Dollars

The State of Florida has fined Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company $1.26 million dollars according to the Sun Sentinel. The press release indicates that state regulators came down hard on Universal for its wrongful denial of claims, cancellation of policies without adequate notice, post-claim underwriting, and making outsized profits at affiliates while the parent company declared losses.

The Sun Sentinel reports that the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation ordered Universal to immediately cease certain wrongful practices and pay the fine – believed to be one of the largest in state history for a property insurance company. Universal is entitled to an appeal before an administrative law judge.

Next to Citizens, Universal is Florida’s second largest property insurance company with approximately 543,000 policies statewide. The insurer took in an estimated $765 million from rate payers last year. The findings from the regulator’s two-year investigation accuses the insurer of hiding profits while sticking homeowners with higher rates and fighting against paying claims. And, when it comes time to pay claims, regulators say homeowners face many hurdles with Universal. According to the regulatory report and the press release, Universal refers all claims to a “Special Investigation Unit” that reviews policyholders’ applications and looks for reasons to cancel a policy and deny payment. According to the state’s insurance consumer advocate, this practice of “post-claim underwriting” or, in other words, conducting the underwriting on a policy application only after a claim is filed, is very troublesome. For instance, Universal is accused of using omissions or misstatements on a homeowner’s original application that have nothing to do with the claim to void the policies (e.g., late payments on an old debt, liens, bankruptcies, or other credit issues). Robin Westcott, Florida’s insurance consumer advocate, is quoted by the Sun Sentinel as saying; “Any action by a company that looks for a reason to deny a claim after taking people’s hard-earned money should rise to the top of the list of actions that we just won’t tolerate.”

The attorneys at Balkan & Patterson, LLP are experienced in consumer rights litigation and will act to protect consumers against corporate wrongdoers. The law firm of Balkan & Patterson, LLP was founded in 2006 and is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, at 1877 S. Federal Highway, Suite 100. The attorneys at Balkan & Patterson, LLP may be contacted at (561) 750-9191. Additional information about Balkan & Patterson, LLP may be obtained from the firm’s website at www.balkanpatterson.com.

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