February 2017


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Florida now has legislation backed by the top Florida insurance regulator and the industry that promises to curtail homeowners insurance abuse under the assignment of benefits (AOB) feature.

Senate Bill 1038, filed Feb. 17 by State Sen. Dorothy Hukill and co-sponsored by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, seeks to clarify the intent of the assignment of benefits provision for policyholders and limit the scope of benefits provided to those other than the named insured on the policy

The assignment of benefits bill would also instill specified conditions for assignment agreements to be valid. The bill stipulates that an assignment agreement will not be valid unless it meets the following conditions:

  • Agreement is in writing and is executed by all named insureds
  • Allows insureds to rescind the assignment agreement within seven business days without penalty
  • Requires the assignee to provide a copy of the assigned agreement to the insured no later than three business days after the agreement is executed;
  • And includes a written, itemized, per-unit cost estimate of the work to be performed by the assignee.

Other stipulations of the bill include: prohibiting certain provisions in an assignment agreement; specifying requirements for an assignee or transferee; and requiring an assignee to meet certain requirements as a condition precedent to filing suit under a policy.

Under Florida’s current one-way attorney fee statute, 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 goal of the bill is to keep the assignment of benefits consumer protection in place, but take away the incentive – the one-way attorney fee – that the industry claims is driving abuse by assignees, who have included unregulated water mitigation, remediation and roofing contractors typically working with attorney groups.

If passed by the Legislature and signed into law, the bill would become effective July 1, 2017

Please enjoy the full article below;

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2017/02/28/443010.htm

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.

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

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.

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

Please call L & S Insurance at 1-888-244-7400 for free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Business & Commercial, Commercial Auto and Life & Financial products as well.

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