Coronavirus & the Florida Market

Florida coronavirus incidences as of 5/10/20, 9:45pm ET

As we enter the second week of the partial business re-opening of Florida, virus-related insurance claims are being filed, insurance companies are fighting back in court, and the industry is making dire predictions on its future.  A national data call has just been launched to find answers across insurance lines about claims and losses related to COVID-19.

Most Florida businesses have been allowed to re-open at a reduced capacity with precautions in place to help contain the virus’ spread.  Those include barber shops and hair and nail salons as of this morning.  You can read the complete Plan for Florida’s Recovery, created from the input of the Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force.  Businesses and local governments are using the plan as a road map to innovate solutions.  Sarasota, Orlando, St. Petersburg, and Jacksonville are among cities with plans to allow retail sales and restaurant seating outside in parking lots under big tents.  In some cases, through-roads are being limited to create more outdoor space.

After a six-week hiatus on elective procedures, hospitals and clinics are picking up the pace once again.  Patients are being tested for COVID-19 prior to surgical procedures.  A Florida Medical Association survey reports 42% of its members had laid off staff and 4% said they were closed indefinitely or permanently.  The 14-member Safety Net Hospital Alliance of big city Florida hospitals report they’ve been collectively losing an estimated $175 million in revenue a week.

Meanwhile, business interruption claims continue to be filed, followed in some cases, by quick lawsuits. The most recent include a class action led by a South Florida beauty salon claiming civil authority triggered BI coverage in an all-risk policy that has no listed exclusions.  Insurance companies are responding, including Lloyds of London in that Tampa sports bar case, arguing for dismissal because there was no physical damage.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) is taking part in a national data call of all 50 states, DC, and territories launched this past Friday by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).  “This data will assist state insurance regulators and others in understanding which insurers are writing applicable coverage, the size of the market, the extent of exclusions related to COVID-19, and claims and losses related to COVID-19,” said the NAIC.

The data call targets business interruption (BI) premium and exposure, together with BI claims and losses, to be reported monthly beginning June 8.  It includes admitted and non-admitted domestic insurers, including U.S. domiciled surplus lines.  Full details are available on the NAIC data call webpage.

Predictions of an uptick here in Florida of workers’ compensation claims and litigation filings haven’t happened, at least not yet.  David Langham, Florida’s Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims, reports in his insightful blog that filings for petition of benefits and numbers of new litigated cases are both unaffected by COVID-19 to date.

Florida’s three-stage re-opening, partnering with local governments, is meant to be in small, deliberate, and methodical steps.  The goal is to get our mighty state economy back up and operating, but in a safe way.  As the Governor has said “our biggest obstacle is fear of the unknown.  We are a people with a can-do attitude that can rebuild the way safely.”  I know our readers are certainly doing what they can.  Please let me know how we can help you.