Wilma Damaged a Record Number of Vehicles in South Florida


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State Farm and Progressive spokespersons indicate they received more auto damage claims from Hurricane Wilma than any of last year’s hurricanes. The two firms are Florida’s largest auto insurers.

Wind is to blame for most of the vehicle damage after last week’s storm.

Falling tree branches, airborne shingles and other wind-whipped debris left behind a lot of scratches, dents and smashed windows but fewer cars were destroyed than in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

As of Tuesday, State Farm had received 35,409 auto claims, more than its auto claims after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne combined. Last year Hurricane Charley caused the most auto claims for the state’s largest auto insurer, 19,440.

Progressive wouldn’t provide claim numbers but said Wilma’s auto claims exceeded the number of claims for any of last year’s hurricanes.

“Wilma is significantly bigger than any one storm last year,” Progressive spokesman William Perry told the Palm Beach Post. “And it’s bigger than any two storms last year.”

The flood of claims is slowing State Farm’s response time to policyholders. Spokesman Chris Neal said customers should expect to wait about 20 days after filing a claim to see an adjuster for an estimate.

Neal said the company hopes to reduce that wait time by bringing several mobile adjuster offices to the state. Its mobile offices were working in Louisiana and Mississippi but are expected to arrive in Florida this week.

The flood of claims isn’t having the same effect on Progressive. On average, Progressive customers can see an adjuster four days after filing a claim and get their checks in 4 1/2 days, Perry said.

Not all Florida auto insurers are being swamped with claims. Nationwide Insurance has received 1,900 auto claims since Wilma blew through the area.

Last year Hurricane Charley resulted in 3,000 auto claims for Nationwide, the most of any of the four storms.

“There are fewer total losses, and more of the damaged vehicles are repairable,” Perry said.

State Farm said the body shops with which it has agreements are reporting average delays of 60 to 90 days.


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