STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. THE HONOURABLE ORLANDO SMITH, OBE DURING THE FOURTH SITTING
ON THE VIRGIN ISLANDS INSURANCE TRIBUNAL REPORT
THURSDAY 31 JANUARY, 2019
Good morning, members of the Media, Guests, and Members of the Virgin Islands Insurance Tribunal.
I thank you for joining us this morning as we provide you with a report of the work of the Insurance Tribunal over the past 12 months, and to answer questions on the matter addressed this morning.
Immediately following the passage of Hurricane Irma, on September 11 I held a meeting with the Territory’s insurance providers and one with the Territory’s banks.
In that meeting, insurance companies assured the Government that they were ready to address claims. I also received assurances that their re-insurers were prepared to pay out claims.
Even in those early days, we knew how challenging the road ahead would be and how important it was for residents and businesses to recoup the protection that insurance promised to provide its users, to help people rebuild their homes, restore office spaces and help us all to put our country back together.
I had a follow up meeting with the insurance companies and also the banks to get an update on issues raised by the public on the claims process, the timely resolution of claims, disparities in estimated costs of damages and settlements, the pricing of salvaged vehicles and new increased premiums faced by residents.
In the meeting, I also stressed the urgent need to get claims processed so residents could be able to rebuild their homes and have safe housing for those that were still displaced, and for commercial properties to be restored to bring back services that were disrupted.
On that basis, I announced in the House of Assembly that my Government would find a way to address the concerns and complaints of residents as they navigate through the insurance claims process.
It was then that the formulation of the Virgin Islands Insurance Tribunal was deemed top priority through the Financial Services (Continuity of Business) Act, 2017.
The Insurance Tribunal, which continues to be ably chaired by Mr. Jack Husbands and includes members such as Ms. Eleanor Smith, Mrs. Icis Malone, Mr. Everett O’Neal and Mrs. Violet Gaul, receives and investigates reports from persons (the “insured”) who are aggrieved by a decision of an insurer with respect to any claims they have lodged or filed with the insurer; mediate between an insurer and the insured with the objective of enabling an amicable settlement between the insurer and the insured; and, advises an insured of its options in the event that the insurer and the insured are unable to reach an amicable settlement.
Today’s proceedings will see the Chairman, Mr. Jack Husbands provide a report on their accomplishments since their inception.
From this report you will understand and appreciate, as I do, the hard work that this Tribunal has done. Considering all that we’ve experienced, we should have a different appreciation and understanding of the importance of the Insurance Tribunal and its members.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the members, Ms. Eleanor Smith, Mrs. Icis Malone, Mr. Everett O’Neal and Mrs. Violet Gaul for their contributions, willingness and aptitude to see this through. I would also like to thank the insurance companies and the Territory’s banks for earnestly being a part of the process. To the people of the Virgin Islands, specifically, the individuals who have utilized the Tribunal and have received positive responses, thank you for always voicing your concerns and believing in this Government to do what is right for its people.
Thank you all.