An estimated $1.23 billion in claims are expected to be filed by Citizens Property Insurance policyholders because of damage from Hurricane Irma, the state-backed insurer announced Wednesday.
However, with 70,000 claims now anticipated to be filed over the next two years, down from earlier projections, the money for repairs and losses should easily be covered by Citizens without taxpayers getting tapped.
“Even after Hurricane Irma, Citizens' capital position is strong,” Citizens Chairman Chris Gardner said during a brief telephone meeting Wednesday.
Gardens credited “hard work and preparation over the last few years” for Citizens' initial response to Hurricane Irma. But he cautioned that “given the magnitude of reported claims, we are sure to encounter unforeseen challenges.”
The company, which has estimated that a 100-year storm hitting Florida could result in up to $6.6 billion in claims, has $7.4 billion in surplus and additional reinsurance --- backup coverage that insurers purchase.
With 453,339 policies statewide as of July 31, the company also has less exposure than it did five years ago when it covered nearly 1.5 million properties.
Gardner, calling the more than $1.2 billion figure an “early estimate,” said Citizens also expects to recoup about $193 million from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which also provides backup coverage.
As of Tuesday night, more than 45,600 Citizens claims had been filed since Irma made two Florida landfalls Sept. 10. About 56 percent of the claims were from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys where the company has 60 percent of the “wind” coverage, was responsible for 15 percent of the claims that had been filed.
Days after powerful and deadly Hurricane Irma made its double landfall in Florida, the company was bracing for up to 125,000 claims.
But with 800 adjusters in the field, the number of claims filed is now expected to grow by only 15,000 over the next 18 to 24 months, Gardner said.
Last year Citizens paid out $10.7 million in claims related to hurricanes Hermine and Matthew, with about 4,000 claims filed.
Meanwhile, the state Office of Insurance Regulation reported that as of Tuesday afternoon, an overall industry total of 605,520 Irma claims had been filed, with losses estimated at $3.86 billion.
Last year, Hermine, which made landfall south of Tallahassee as a Category 1 storm, resulted in 19,699 claims that totaled $139 million in losses. Matthew, which never made landfall as it ran up the eastern shoreline, had 119,345 claims with losses projected at $1.182 billion.