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Florida’s insurance industry will apply significant pressure on lawmakers to pass assignments of benefit (AOB) reform in the upcoming legislative session as consumers face rate increases and a looming coverage availability crisis due to serious and costly abuse of the policyholder benefit.

While the industry seems to finally have reached a consensus on what is fueling the widespread AOB abuse and how to fix it, the question of whether the Florida Legislature will agree to act on the industry’s recommendations remains to be seen

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) and Citizens Property Insurance Corp., as well as other stakeholders, are working together with Florida lawmakers to introduce a bill for the 2017 legislative session, which begins on March 7. The goal is to keep the assignment of benefits consumer protection in place, but take away the incentive that is driving the abuse by assignees, who have included attorney groups, unregulated water mitigation, remediation, and roofing contractors.

The unanimous feeling is that Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute is the main driver of the problem, and that’s what the industry says needs to be addressed by legislation in the upcoming session. Under Florida’s current law, policyholders suing their insurer over a claim dispute can recover their attorney’s fees if the insurer is shown to have underpaid the claim, by any amount.

The industry says third party contractors and attorneys have been abusing the policyholder benefit, particularly for water losses, to inflate claims and fees

 

Please enjoy the full article below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2017/02/15/441784.htm

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Assignment of benefits abuse has escalated over the last five years to the point where it is now a serious disruption to Florida’s insurance market.

The abuse, which is especially rampant in South Florida, stems from unscrupulous contractors and attorneys cashing in on homeowners dealing with a water loss, such as a burst pipe or roof leak. The “bad actors,” as they have been dubbed by the industry, use an AOB to acquire the homeowners’ insurance benefits, file inflated claims, and then lawsuits against insurers when those claims are disputed or denied

The industry hopes this will be the year that the Florida Legislature addresses the problem.

AOB is such a hot topic in Florida right now that it dominated discussions on almost every panel and between attendees of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Florida Insurance Summit held Feb. 1-3 in Miami. A glance at the numbers from various Florida sources tells the story of why:

  • Frequency of water claims rose 46 percent and severity increased 28 percent between 2010 and 2015 (OIR 2015 Data Call)
  • AOB property insurance claims totaled 28,000 in 2016, up from 843 in 2010 and 405 in 2006 (Florida CFO Jeff Atwater)
  • Florida’s Citizens saw a 30 percent increase in new lawsuits filed against the insurer between January and November 2016 (Citizens)
  • 50 percent of Citizens’ water-related claims resulted in litigation in 2016, up from 15 percent in 2011 (Citizens)
  • As of October 2016, Citizens had 9,306 litigated claims pending and continues to receive an average of approximately 850 new claims per month (average of approximately 980 per month from August to October)
  • In South Florida, the average AOB claim costs more than $32,000, nearly triple the average of non-AOB claims (Florida Consumer Protection Coalition)

Please enjoy the full article below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2017/02/09/441410.htm

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Ohio-based Demotech — which rates 397 companies nationwide, 57 of which are in Florida —said Monday that it has suspended ratings guidelines it uses in Florida due to what it is calling an uncertain operating environment in the state.

The ratings firm says no Florida insurers it rates are in danger of failing but there are about 10 to 15 that could see downgrades in March.

Demotech said it will eventually revise its general guidance but, in the meantime, it is advising carriers individually to ensure they are adequately capitalized to handle the now uncertain operating environment

The uncertain operating climate that concerns Demotech refers to Florida’s escalating assignment of benefits crisis that has caused the number of litigated water loss claims to skyrocket over the past few years, particularly for the state-run insurer Citizens. The problem has begun affecting Florida’s private market insurers as well, with many pulling out of areas of the state where the abuse is the most rampant and filing for rate increases.

In addition, two court cases decided at the end of 2016 that Demotech said reversed “industry claims procedures that remain intact in other operating environments” will create unanticipated challenges for insurers that Demotech said it now needs to take into consideration to properly rate companies operating in Florida

Please enjoy the full article below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2017/02/07/441177.htm

Please be sure to call L & S Insurance at -1-888-244-7400 for quotes on Home, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Business & Commercial & Life & Financial products as well. The new Maps are still Preliminary and could be updated again. The new changes will start in September if all goes as planned  and about 76,000 homes will need to start to have a new Flood Policy where one was not needed before. Most people do not understand the risk of Flood, but ask people in N.J. from Hurricane Sandy and they will tell you otherwise. Please be prepared and check your information now. You can call Lee at L & S at x-209 for a class at your office soon to review the maps with your agents. Private Flood c an help, please ask me about it!!

http://maps.co.palm-beach.fl.us/gis/floodzones.aspx?

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In September, Hurricane Hermine broke Florida’s hurricane drought that had lasted since 2005. The category 1 storm hit the Florida Panhandle, bringing significant storm surge to the Tampa Bay area before slowly traveling up the Eastern Seaboard.

The storm weakened to a tropical storm as it moved inland in Florida, with winds topping 70 miles per hour, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, but it was still enough to cause widespread damage and power outages. Toppled trees in Tallahassee left some residents without power for a week

Then in October, Hurricane Matthew hit. The storm was classified as a category 3 with winds of 120 miles per hour.

“When Matthew was nearing Florida, there was a large amount of uncertainty of whether there would be more wind and storm surge or less so because the storm was paralleling so close to the coast,” said Tom Sabbatelli, RMS Hurricane Risk Expert based in the UK

 

Please read the full story below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2016/12/14/435122.htm

 

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Assignment of benefits abuse has become such a well-known problem in the state of Florida this year that it now just goes by the nickname “AOB.”

The issue with AOB comes from when a policyholder suffers a loss, such as water damage to their home, and then signs over their insurance policy to the person repairing the damage. Repair contractors utilizing the AOB on behalf of the insured often work with attorneys who then sue the insurance company over the claim

Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute has encouraged these suits because the insurance company is typically left paying the attorney fees. In many cases, policyholders don’t know the lawsuit has even been filed.

Florida’s state-run insurer Citizens has been the most affected by this abuse. Citizens CEO and Executive Director Barry Gilway says that the negative impact on the pricing of property insurance and availability of coverage in Florida is getting worse. Gilway said while the gross misuse of the AOB form is a major component of the issue, the problem has really become a litigation issue relating to all non-wind water claims.

“The situation is deteriorating even further at Citizens,” Gilway told Insurance Journal. “Despite a book of business that has stabilized at around 490,000 policies, we are now projecting the number of lawsuits received each month will grow from 900 this year to over 1,000 in 2017. And yes, it is the same 10-15 firms that continue to be responsible for 60 percent of the litigation across the state.”

Please click the link below to read the full story!!

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2016/12/13/434926.htm

In Fort Lauderdale and all of S. Florida some people do not get covered as they should. Most do, but this will help the few who did not get paid. They will all be costly and come with Litigation so I know for sure we will all pay for this with more rate hikes for many years to come. Water Damage claims, Hurricane Matthew and now this?? How much more can we take. Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400 for free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Business & Commercial & Life & financial products as well.

John Sebo v. American Home Assurance Company, Inc. Case No.: SC14-897 (Fla. Dec. 1, 2016) image

John Sebo purchased a four year old home in Naples, Florida. American Home Assurance Company (AHAC) provided homeowners insurance. The policy insured against “all risks.” Shortly after the purchase, water began to intrude throughout the home. It became clear that the house suffered from major design and construction defects. AHAC denied coverage for most of the claimed losses. Trial proceeded against AHAC, where Mr. Sebo sought a declaration that the policy provided coverage for his damages.
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