Port Charlotte woman fights for insurer to cover post-Ian house repairs

Published: January 24, 2023 4:01 PM EST
Updated: January 24, 2023 5:28 PM EST

First came Hurricane Ian, then came the battles with insurance companies. One woman in Port Charlotte has fought continuously to have her insurer pay out her claim appropriately.

Susan Natke-Brown is constantly reminded of Ian’s destruction whenever she’s in her house—and she works from home. Water stains spill across the ceiling, the entire roof is covered with blue tarps and the back of her pool cage is gone.

“We started seeing our pool cage come apart, piece by piece, and just all the sounds,” Natke-Brown said. “I thought it just kept getting worse. And I thought, ‘Oh, it’s gotta get better, and it can’t get worse.’ And then it actually did get worse.”

The same can be said of her battle with her insurance company. Natke-Brown hasn’t been able to start any construction on the house, even though she filed a claim shortly after the storm.

“And then waited and waited some more and waited and kept calling,” Natke-Brown said. “And they gave me an adjuster, and then that person never called, and then they said they changed it to another adjuster. Just kept trying to call, trying to find out when an outside adjuster was going to come and look at our house.”

An adjuster came around eight weeks later.

“He pretty much ran through the house and took pictures, and so we just assumed that he would put his estimate together,” Natke-Brown said. “Took another… oh my goodness, another month, I believe, to finally get an estimate with an amount.”

Natke-Brown says a contractor estimated it would cost about $80,000 to get her home back to normal, but the check from the insurance company was only around $21,000.

“They had left off the master bedroom and quite a few other things, and so I’ve been in stress mode since then,” Natke-Bown said. ‘I don’t understand. This is not enough money at all. They won’t even cover the roof estimate.”

Natke-Brown fought back to get the money she believes she deserves. Multiple adjusters have come to her home. Her insurance company marked her claim as closed before sending more money, another $20,000 or so. That’s only half of the amount a contractor estimated, and it’s still not enough.

“It’s exhausting and very frustrating.,” Natk-Brown said. “But they had no problem charging us $1,000 more for our premium that we had to pay just last month, right after Christmas.”

She’s still fighting, and she says you should, too. Her advice to people undergoing similar turmoil?

“Find out who the higher-ups are, the boss; definitely email every day so that you have a paper trail, and then call, call, call, just be a pain in the neck,” Natke-Brown said.

The Insurance Information Institute agrees: Go up the chain of command and speak to a supervisor.

“You paid your policy,  you pay your insurance, you pay your premium to be protected from losses like hurricanes, and you deserve to be covered for those losses,” said the Insurance Information Institute’s Mark Friedlander.

“I know it’s all gonna work out in the end,” Natke-Brown said. “It’s supposed to, anyway.”

If you feel like your insurance company still isn’t holding up its end of the bargain, you have options. The Insurance Information Institute recommends filing a complaint with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Then, consider a licensed public adjuster; just know you’ll have to pay a fee, often 10% of your insurance check. Hiring a lawyer and suing the insurance company is the last resort—since many of you likely filed your claims back in 2022, the insurer is on the hook for your attorney’s fees if you win in court.