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Florida dealers: Insurers nix policies ahead of Irma

September 8, 2017
Insurers including Progressive and Allstate stopped issuing policies on new cars in certain Florida counties days before Hurricane Irma was forecast to hit, hindering vehicle sales there.
Ted Smith, the president of the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, charged that the companies were overreacting to losses incurred last month related to Hurricane Harvey by refusing to issue coverage. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. was still issuing coverage and waiting until a national hurricane advisory before halting new policies, he said Sept. 6.
"If you take (dealers) out of business for a week before a storm even hits and maybe a week after, you can imagine the impact, not just on consumers who are inconvenienced but the state’s economic resources," Smith said. "I’m urging through our public officials that they talk to these insurance companies and make sure they follow the policy of State Farm: Wait until there’s imminent danger before you stop writing cars."
Hurricane Irma, which Barclays estimates could cause as much as $130 billion in damage, was forecast to reach Florida Sept. 10, the National Hurricane Center said. The insurance industry has already taken a hit from Hurricane Harvey, which inundated the Texas coastline and left parts of Houston, the fourth-largest U.S. city, under feet of water.
Progressive instituted binding restrictions on new customers in some Florida counties, said Jeff Sibel, a company spokesman, adding that insurers often do so ahead of storms. Allstate had a property and auto moratorium in place in 23 counties, according to April Eaton, a spokeswoman. The companies are the third- and fourth-largest auto insurers in the state, according to according to data compiled by A.M. Best Co.
Barry Frieder, the president of Potamkin Automotive, which owns three dealerships in Miami, said that insurers stopped writing policies beginning Sept. 5.
"We’ve kind of been out of business since then," he said.