December 2021


POLITICS

Commission urges reform to state’s new no fault auto insurance law. PIP reform trying again? How about Property Insurance?

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

December 28, 2021

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

A Florida claims adjuster that authorities called the mastermind behind an extensive property insurance fraud scheme has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Walter Malet, 32, of Orlando, was convicted of pilfering more than $262,559 from Security First Insurance Co. of Florida, according to court records and local news reports. Prosecutors said Malet and 10 others used the insurer’s computer system to reopen claims, issue expense checks to ghost vendors, then close the claims the same day, without supervisory review.

“This case is a shining example of the private sector partnering with the State Attorney’s Office to investigate and successfully prosecute a complex and sophisticated group of thieves,” the state attorney for Volusia County, R.J. Larizza, said in a statement.

Malet and another desk examiner at Security First, Rony Pierre-Louis, added eight vendors to Security First’s expense account in 2018 and 2019, according to the prosecutor’s charging affidavit, filed in Volusia County Circuit Court. The schemers then issued 90 payments to the fake vendors.

Security First discovered the scheme during a routine audit, the affidavit said. The insurer found that payments had been made to the vendors, but no invoices had been submitted. Investigators then determined that the vendors were illegitimate, and had families ties to some of the defendants, the arrest report noted. By reopening and closing the claims in the same day, the Security First computer system did not record them as open claims, which helped avoid supervisory scrutiny, according to the court documents.

But the fraudsters may not have realized that records of the transactions were still available in the system.

Some 85 of the 90 checks were deposited into bank accounts, but Security First was able to stop payment on five checks. The participants also used phone-based payment apps, such as Venmo, Zelle and Square, to transfer proceeds to each other, investigators said.

The investigation also found that one defendant also operated a company that was engaged in other illegal activity, including money laundering, the court documents show. The ring also was able to hack the computer credentials of five other Security First employees, as part of the scheme.

All 11 members of the fraud ring were charged with grand theft. Several defendants have pleaded guilty.

Locke Burt, the chairman and CEO of Security First, said that reducing fraud is the best way to keep premiums and costs to a minimum.

“We want the people of Florida to understand how important these cases are to everyone in Florida and if you see fraud, report fraud,” Burt said in a statement to the news media.

State Department of Financial Service records show that Malet was licensed as an all-lines adjuster but was suspended in March 2020 after he was arrested.

After serving prison time, Malet will be on 12 years of probation, authorities said.

TOPICS FLORIDA FRAUD

Florida Personal Lines Coverage Reaches Crisis Levels — Part 1

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

After years of abusive lawsuits and fraud, homeowners insurance rates in Florida are through the roof – and both agents and policyholders are suffering.

December 28, 2021 at 10:06 AM

 6 minute read

CommentaryBy Oscar Miniet

The original version of this story was published on Https://www


Editor’s note: Part two of this article will appear on Wednesday, December 29, 2021.

Experienced members of the property & casualty insurance industry will tell you that the U.S. can be divided into three parts: 49 States, Florida and South Florida.

Those who live in or conduct insurance business in the Sunshine State will also tell you that it’s hard to imagine the residential property insurance market getting much worse than it is at the moment, both for agents and for homeowners.

Considering the number of severe weather events that have wracked the state over the last decade, it would be tempting to believe that the multi-million dollar losses — and the ensuing massive loss creep — dealt by hurricanes such as Irma and Michael are mostly to blame for the widespread pull-out of national insurers from the Florida property market.

This is not to say that those losses aren’t huge; in fact, they continue to mount. Among the insurers who still write business here, in 2020 — even without a hurricane making landfall — Florida’s property insurance market posted one of its worst financial performances to date: 56 Florida insurers reported a combined $1.57 billion in underwriting losses, according to data obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

That not only marks the industry’s fifth consecutive year of losses in the state, but is also more than two-and-a-half times what those companies lost in 2019.

As incredible as those figures are, agents in Florida know that the damage dealt by major hurricanes isn’t even the main driver behind insurers abandoning the state — as well as the huge influx of policies to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s insurer of last resort.

Rather, the current residential property insurance crisis in Florida is the result of years of abuse by bad actors who have taken advantage of the assignment-of-benefits loophole, exploiting property insurers and policyholders alike.

Cause & effect

Ten years ago, unscrupulous lawyers, public adjusters, restoration companies and others began posing as “insurance specialists” and targeting homeowners who suffered weather damage. They promised these homeowners exceptional results on their property claims if they signed over their right to make a claim (an assignment of benefits) to them. Many would sell themselves on “taking care of everything” for the homeowner, including any and all dealings with the insurance company.

Additionally, homeowners were and have been offered financial incentives in order to initiate claims. That trend began to skyrocket five years ago at a pace that carriers and agents were unable to combat.

Prior to recently passed legislation, if a homeowner believed they were entitled to more than what their insurer said, they would hire a lawyer and sue their carrier for what the insured felt they deserved (or what their lawyer, contractor or public adjuster told them they deserved).

Regardless of whether the attorney was able to secure an award above the initial offer from the insurance company, the lawyers were able to include their legal fees in the lawsuit — which is where the costs to the insurer truly began to skyrocket.

Those law firms, adjusters (some licensed, some not) and contractors have scammed thousands of Florida homeowners this way, offering deposit waivers, rebates and even gift cards to get homeowners to agree to AOB. AOB lawsuits make up more than half of the suits filed statewide against insurance companies, and in 2019, Florida accounted for over 76% of all homeowners’ litigation in the U.S. That should tell you something about just how profitable these legal actions are for Florida lawyers.

Also, consider this statistic: Since 2013, $15 billion has been paid out in claims in Florida — 71% of which went to attorney fees, 21% paid for insurers’ defense costs and just 8% went to property owners for their losses.

Roofing contractors are largely to blame for pushing many of these claims that would otherwise never have been filed. Typically, a contractor solicits a property owner, telling them that they believe the property has sustained damage covered by the homeowner’s policy; if they’ve lost a few shingles off their roof in a hurricane, why shouldn’t they receive a whole new roof?

Sometimes things work out for the homeowners, allowing them to get over on their insurer. But those “victories,  which in reality are just insurance fraud, have led to premium increases of up to 40% for Florida homeowners after carrier appetite for property waned, competition decreased and rates went through the roof.

Insurance carriers can reserve against acts of God, but not the acts of unchecked greed. Another factor causing an uptick in claims is a lack of knowledge of the claims process among insureds and a widespread sentiment among them of not wanting to deal with the process of a claim. As a result, those looking to perpetrate fraud upon the system find no shortage of homeowners to prey upon.

In one such case, the sister of a Renaissance member was misled by contractors who knocked on her door and advised her that some neighbors in her community were suffering from water damage and mold in their homes and that she could have the same damage. Concerned, she invited in the contractors, who quickly broke large holes in her drywall, set up dehumidifiers and fans and led her to believe they immediately found signs of water damage. The contractors then had her sign a form that gave them all the rights to her claim.

Weeks went by, and after numerous unreturned phone calls she called her insurance company. They advised that they were unable to speak to her regarding her own claim, as she had assigned all rights, including the right to communicate, over to the contractors.

Oscar Miniet is regional executive vice president at Renaissance Alliance. He can be reached at Oscar.Miniet@Renaissanceins.com.

Reprinted with permission from Renaissance Alliance. https://www.renaissanceins.com/how-it-works/

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

The 10 states with the most at-fault accidents

By Brittney Meredith-Miller | December 22, 2021 at 01:00 AM

     Previous

10. Utah

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 11.34%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.75

(Photo: Johnny Adolphson/Shutterstock.com)

9. Rhode Island

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 11.35%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.75

(Photo: ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com)

8. Georgia

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 11.78%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.12

(Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com)

7. Maine

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 12.05%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.06

(Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

6. New Hampshire

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 12.09%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.73

(Photo: Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock.com)

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5. South Carolina

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.11%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.73

(Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com)

4. Maryland

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.22%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.87

(Photo: Kevin Ruck/Adobe Stock)

3. Ohio

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.28%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.01

(Photo: rouda100/Adobe Stock)

2. Nebraska

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.28%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.17

(Photo: Kristopher Kettner/Shutterstock)

1. Massachusetts

Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.34%

Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.51

(Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an auto accident occurs approximately every six seconds in the United States. Of course, some areas of the country present more driving hazards than others.

Insurify analyzed over 4 million car insurance applications to pinpoint the most dangerous states for auto travelers. They found that, across all 50 states, the average percentage of drivers with an at-fault accident on their record was 10.18%.

They looked at this information alongside data on auto accident fatality rates from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which showed an average traffic fatality rate of 1.11 deaths per 100 million miles driven in the U.S.. However, Insurify’s data scientists found no correlation between a state’s percentage of drivers with an at-risk accident and the state’s fatality rate.

In this slideshow, we take a look at the ten states with the highest percentage of drivers with an at-fault accident on their record, as well as each of their fatality rates.

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Brittney Meredith-Miller

By Kimberly Tallon

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active on record and the sixth consecutive year of above-average hurricane activity. Still, the overall season was mostly in line with the updated 30-year average, according to experts from AIR Worldwide.

However, the season did reveal some “unsettling” trends, said Jeffrey Strong, research scientist in the Hurricane Hazard group at AIR, during a webinar on the 2021 U.S. Hurricane Season Review.

The season saw 21 named storms and seven hurricanes, four of which reached major hurricane status of Cat 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Two hurricanes made U.S. landfall in 2021: Hurricane Ida, which arrived in Louisiana on Aug. 30 as a Cat 4 storm, and Hurricane Nicholas, which hit southeast Texas on Sept. 14 as a Cat 1.

Strong said that comparing the previous 30-year average (1981-2010) to the updated one (1991-2020) shows an “alarming trend of increased activity across the North Atlantic Basin. This trend will certainly be bolstered by the previous two years of above-average activity.”

Strong highlighted several hurricanes for their notable activity:

Hurricane Grace made landfall in Jamaica on Aug. 17 as a tropical storm before strengthening into a Cat 1 hurricane by late in the day on Aug. 18. Grace then made landfall near Tulum, Mexico on Aug. 19 before slowly degrading back to tropical storm strength. However, another bout of rapid intensification caused the storm to peak at Cat 3 just before landfall in the Mexican state of Veracruz on Aug. 21. Grace rapidly weakened over Mexico before dissipating later that day.

Strong noted, “One unsettling trend—and a storyline going forward—that major Hurricane Grace highlights is the increased occurrence of rapid intensification events during a hurricane season.” He defined rapid intensification “as a storm which intensifies by at least 30 knots in a given 24-hour period.” He said that preliminary data reveals the 2021 hurricane season saw eight rapid intensification events spread across six storms.

Hurricane Larry achieved hurricane status as a Cat 1 on Sept. 2 before intensifying to a Cat 3 two days later. The storm made landfall in Newfoundland on Sept. 11 as a Cat 1 before becoming an extratropical cyclone. Hurricane Sam, meanwhile, strengthened into a hurricane on Sept. 24 and reached Cat 4 by Sept. 25. The storm weakened and re-strengthened several times before finally transitioning to an extratropical cyclone on Oct. 5. Strong said the two storms were remarkable due to the length of time each spent at hurricane status. Both storms quickly reached and maintained their peak intensity for a prolonged period.

Hurricane Henri became a Cat 1 on Aug. 21 but weakened back to a tropical storm before making landfall in Rhode Island with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. Strong said the storm is notable because its slow forward speed at landfall and predecessor rains dumped more than eight inches of rain in parts of New Jersey and New York. He noted that the rain gauges in Central Park measured the highest one-hour total rainfall going back to 1943.

Hurricane Ida was the most destructive storm of the 2021 season. After achieving tropical storm status on Aug. 26, Ida intensified into a Cat 1 hurricane before making two landfalls in Cuba on Aug. 27. The hurricane then underwent another bout of rapid intensification into a Cat 4 by Aug. 29, with peak intensity of sustained 150 mph winds, and made landfall near Port Fourchon, La. Ida weakened to a tropical depression on Aug. 30. Hurricane Ida maintained its landfall intensity longer than most other notable storms and produced a record-breaking amount of rainfall, Strong said, adding that this is an unfortunate expectation of climate change.

More Mitigation

Hurricane Ida also proved the importance of mitigation efforts, said Tim Johnson, senior engineer at AIR, who also spoke during the webinar. While New Orleans benefitted from upgraded post-Katrina buildings codes and the investment in the levee system, communities along the bayou were not so lucky. Johnson noted that many of these small communities rely entirely on the integrity of their levees, some of which were breached by Hurricane Ida.

Hurricane Ida’s landfall near Port Fourchon also had major ramifications to the oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico, as the port is a critical facility. The damage caused large reductions in oil production, Johnson said, adding that two weeks later production levels were only at 23 percent of pre-Ida levels.

The hurricane was also notable for its impact on the energy grid. Louisiana reported over a million outages, with some of the most impacted areas experiencing extended power delays for weeks. Reports say Hurricane Ida damaged more than 30,000 utility poles—almost twice as many as Katrina.

“Power restoration is one of the most critical elements in event recovery,” said Johnson. “Without power, many other restoration projects are delayed. Any delays can increase the potential for higher losses due to loss of use or mold growth, which may require additional resources to restore.”

Top photo: Homes, businesses and roads are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in LaPlace, La., Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

TOPICS CATASTROPHE NATURAL DISASTERS 

By William Rabb

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

When the Florida insurance world heard that a newly formed homeowners’ insurance carrier was stepping into the troubled Florida waters, reactions ranged from cynical to apoplectic.

Vyrd President David Howard

Few people have given the new company, known as Vyrd Insurance, very good odds on surviving a market that is beset with carrier insolvencies, excessive litigation, a surging public adjuster industry, and alleged fraud by contractors.

One part of the secret sauce for Vyrd, said David Howard, the president of the firm and a veteran of the Florida insurance business, will be Vyrd’s heavy reliance on technology, a preferred contractor network – and a plan to beat the other guys to the punch.

“We feel like we have some technologies that we’re going to employ that will allow us to not only detect problems, but to move quicker on the losses, triaging the losses, and getting quicker to paying the claims and making insureds whole quicker,” Howard said last week.

Vyrd has teamed up with Bolt, an insurtech firm, to provide policyholders with Internet of Things technology that will instantly detect and report water leaks. Vyrd’s adjusters and contractors can then move swiftly to make repairs before damage grows worse – and, perhaps, before public adjusters can calculate major losses.

Vyrd also has signed up an army of roofing contractors and emergency services companies. Once roof damage is detected, software will automatically notify crews, who will swoop in and put tarpaulins on roofs as soon as possible to minimize water damage, Howard said.

“We just feel it’s going to be a quicker claims cycle, essentially,” Howard said. “That’s the key: mobilizing and attacking an area quickly to protect homes and mitigate further loss. We’re real confident about that approach.”

Vyrd, backed with $46 million in capital and a joint venture agreement with SiriusPoint, a major reinsurance firm, plans to start with offering takeout policies to some 42,000 Citizens Property Insurance policyholders. Eventually, company leaders may offer flood insurance for homes and perhaps even condominium coverage.

Howard, the former president of Lighthouse Property Insurance in Florida, sat down for an interview last week with the Insurance Journal to discuss a range of issues the new company, the first in Florida in years, will be facing. His comments have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

IJ: What do you see in the Florida market that others may not?

I think it’s two-fold. So much business has gone to Citizens. That’s why we’re doing the takeout. Most of the business that has entered Citizens in the past year and a half has really been based on rates and age of roof. As rates move up and as cost of living and inflation-guard factors are placed, then that rate is going to be more in line with average rates that we have filed and that other competitors have filed.

IJ: Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said recently that you have credited Senate Bill 76 (passed earlier this year) with making reforms that will limit litigation and other costs for insurers. Others have said the law did not go far enough.

I think it is a good start but we have a ways to go. If you think about Senate Bill 1980, the sinkhole reform legislation (2006), it reduced frivolous lawsuits, but it took a while for that to really take hold. But it finally fixed that problem and think this (SB 76) will eventually tighten up Florida and get rid of solicitations on roofs that aren’t even damaged and those type things to allow carriers to write, in partner with insureds and agents, without fear of reopens and lawsuits and assignment-of-benefits-abuse.

There are characters out there who basically prey on insureds throughout the state and that’s why you have rampant claims and lawsuits. Because the opportunity is there. But also, carriers aren’t working hard enough to have a closer partnership with insureds. And that’s what our goal is going to be, to have a close relationship with our insureds. Provide them services and provide them additional tools to mitigate claims and move quickly on claims. That will alleviate the issues some carriers are seeing in Florida, and why there are so many lawsuits.

IJ: Talk about the insurtech Bolt and your use of technology at Vyrd.

We see tech throughout the ecosystem of everything we do, and we’ll be applying tech throughout the process, on the claims side and the underwriting side, providing more tools for the insured to rapidly detect water loss and to rapidly mitigate roof claims with emergency tarping and services and also get to repairs quicker, through a network of roofers in Florida. And on the water mitigation side, because that’s the two main drivers of losses: roofs and water damage.

We will have a preferred repair network, to provide automatic estimates and quicker roofing jobs throughout the state. And at a fair price to insured and to the carrier that’s replacing the roof. When you have those tighter relationships, not only do you reduce the incurred loss and severity of the claim but you get the insured back to whole quicker.

Related: Appeals Court Rules Florida Insurer Can Keep Using its Own Contractors

IJ: Public adjusters have become a big issue in Florida. How will Vyrd handle that?

That’s a hard one. You know, I think part of it from my perspective is education. Continued education with the agent and the insured to say, “We will take care of you, fairly, expeditiously, and make you whole quickly.” We’ll be getting our agents to impress upon the insureds that this company is ready to deliver and be out there rapidly. And when they get solicited by an adjuster, know that you’ve been educated ahead of time and that, “my carrier is there for me. I don’t need this public adjuster.” And it’s not just anecdotal: From our last position (at Lighthouse Property Insurance) we saw that, in Florida, we did have a lower rate of public adjusters, AOB and litigation, because of the way we had set up the services network.

What other reforms would you like to see come out of the Legislature? There’s been a lot of talk about the need to allow actual cash value on roofs versus full replacement.

That’s a tricky subject because you’re selling a product and the next thing you know, you say you’re selling a product that is not making an insured whole. For now, with the takeout, we’re focused on providing coverage that is like-kind to Citizens. The biggest driver in Florida is roofs and reinsurance costs, and way the reinsurance models treat the age of roofs and the type of construction and where they are located. That’s what generates your probable maximum loss and your reinsurance buy.

We can see down the road there are going to be issues with roofs. Right now, the main thing is to figure out, there has to be a happy medium between what a lot of carriers are doing with trying to reduce their PML and what Citizens is taking in. If you don’t find a solution between those two, then all the takeouts in the world aren’t going to slow the volume going to citizens.

IJ: Rooftop solar power is booming in Florida. What about coverage for that?

That’s an interesting one. We will have to take that into consideration, if we cover that or add coverage for solar. Also, and solar companies evaluate this, but we have to consider the weight of the panels on the roof. Those are all the types of things that solar companies and roofers and insurers need to huddle on to make sure we all understand the impact of what panels do to the roof, and what the cost is, are we covering it, should we apply special coverage for solar? We’ll follow the lead of what the industry is trying to do and apply our experience to it and see what we need to do with it. Right now, it may be 10% of the homes we cover may have solar.

IJ: Where does the name, Vyrd, come from?

It’s two-fold. It is a derivative of verde (Spanish, Portugese, Latin), which means green. Because we are in Florida, which has a lush, green climate. And it also means “go,” because we are ready to go and move ahead with technology. We’re not going to stop. Vyrd also is derived from a Norwegian word that means ‘highly esteemed.’

IJ: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the nay-sayers out there who doubt Vyrd can make it in Florida?

We do not take entering the state lightly. We feel like we are turning over all the rocks and looking in all the nooks and crannies and using our past experience to come out with a new startup-to-takeout company. We’ve experienced a lot, and have been through a lot, so we feel like we are not going into this as a neophyte. But there will be unexpected events, but we are well positioned and prepared to consider appropriate action as things come up.

TOPICS FLORIDA INSURTECH TECH

December 16, 2021

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

The board of governors for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s state-backed insurer of last resort, wants the maximum allowed rate increase – 11% for next year and 12% for 2023 – in an effort to stem the insurer’s rapid growth.

At its meeting Wednesday, the board overrode a staff recommendation of a 7.3% rate increase for homeowners’ policies. Florida law had limited Citizens’ rate hikes to no more than 10% per year but the Legislature changed that earlier this year to allow incrementally higher rates until overall increases reach 15% in 2026.

It’s now up to Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier to decide if he’ll approve the rate request. If ratified, the increases would begin in August 2022 for policies that renew from August through December, and in January 2023 for policies renewing then, Citizens said in a news release.

Citizens was established by lawmakers two decades as a last-resort insurer in Florida’s storm-prone landscape. But the insurer’s rapid growth in recent years, as private insurers have pulled out of the troubled market and have raised premiums, has left many in Florida uneasy. Citizens has added 5,000 policies per week recently and is expected to pass 1 million policies next year, partly because its premiums remain lower than private insurers’ policies in almost every case, Citizens has reported.

Carlos Beruff

Carlos Beruff, chairman of Citizens, said the premium gap and high litigation rates in Florida are making it difficult for Citizens to return to its role as the state’s residual insurer. More policyholders mean more exposure, leaving the state vulnerable if major disasters were to strike, officials have said. Higher premiums may help steer homeowners to other carriers.

“We need to take a look at all our options to stop this unsustainable trajectory,” Beruff said, according to a news release. “Any solution is going to require legislative action to provide Citizens with the tools and flexibility to return to its role as an insurer of last resort.”

Despite some reform legislation passed this year, insurers continue to blame rising costs on litigation brought by allegedly unscrupulous contractors. Some of them, insurers say, have teamed with public adjusters and attorneys to bill insurers for unnecessary work on homes, then file suit when insurance companies won’t pay the claims.

“We have a litigation system that is truly, absolutely out of control,” said Barry Gilway, Citizens president and executive director.

TOPICS FLORIDA PRICING TRENDS HOMEOWNERS

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Mark Fitzpatrick 

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Collision coverage pays for necessary repairs if the policyholder’s car gets damaged after colliding with another vehicle or object. This coverage type is typically included as part of a full coverage policy. Other inclusions are liability and comprehensive coverage. There are various factors to consider in determining if you do need collision coverage or not. Among these are your vehicle’s age, value and location. MoneyGeek breaks down these considerations to help you determine if collision insurance is worth it for you.

Do You Need Collision Insurance?

By law, most states require some form of auto insurance. However, they often only mandate liability coverage. No state requires full coverage insurance, which includes collision coverage.

That said, if you’re financing or leasing your car, the lender or leasing company may require you to have collision coverage.

When to Get Collision Insurance Coverage

Because state laws don’t mandate collision insurance, drivers need to consider their personal circumstances to determine if they could benefit from this coverage. Below are some scenarios where having collision insurance is a practical choice.

  • You have a high-value car: Drivers who have high-value cars may find it practical to have collision coverage. It can help pay for major repairs after a collision, which tend to be more expensive for high-value vehicles.
  • You can’t save enough to replace your car: When deciding if collision insurance is worth it, consider your finances. Can you afford to replace your car if it’s totaled? If your answer is no, then having collision coverage may be worthwhile.
  • You’re leasing or financing your car: If you’re leasing or financing your car, then you may need to get collision coverage. In most cases, lenders and auto financing companies require this coverage.
  • You live somewhere with many uninsured drivers: If you live in a state with a high rate of uninsured motorists, you may have a higher risk of getting in an accident with an uninsured individual. Collision coverage is an excellent option to protect your property from loss because it covers the cost of repairs or even car replacement.

Having no collision insurance puts you at risk of going without coverage if you cause an accident. In this case, your liability insurance and the other party’s insurance won’t cover your expenses, and you’ll be forced to pay for these costs out of pocket.

December 14, 2021

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

More than 400 claims-adjusting firms have been licensed in Florida in the last month, in keeping with a state law that requires that firms, not just adjusters, go through the licensing process, the state’s chief financial officer announced.

Senate Bill 1598 was approved by the Legislature and the governor earlier this year, giving regulators another tool to help stem alleged fraud by some adjusters.

The law stipulates that an individual, a firm, a partnership, a corporation, an association, or any other entity may not act in its own name or under a trade name, directly or indirectly, as an adjusting firm unless it is licensed through the Florida Department of Financial Services.

“It’s not enough to yank a bad adjuster’s license,” state CFO Jimmy Patronis, head of the DFS, said in a bulletin. “We needed the authority to go after their entire business organization. Otherwise, we couldn’t get to the root core of some of these fraudulent activities.”

Patronis said that assignment-of-benefit reforms passed 2019 were important, but other measures were also needed. “While there are a lot of great adjusters, I saw firsthand from Hurricane Michael how a bad adjuster can ruin families’ lives,” he said, referring to the 2018 storm that struck the Florida Panhandle, where Patronis hails from.

Insurance companies have complained that some adjusters and their firms have conflicts of interest, in that their close relatives are owners of construction firms that are assigned home restoration work after the adjuster recommends unnecessary work. It’s all part of a web of adjusters, contractors and attorneys that insurers say have cost carriers severely in Florida and have led to litigation, insolvencies and premium increases.

Florida now has almost 175,000 licensed public and independent adjusters, the DFS said.

TOPICS LEGISLATION FLORIDA

December 14, 2021

Please call  Lee from  USAsurance Powered by WeInsure & Calle Financial. 954-270-7966 or 833-USAssure at the office. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com . I am Your Insurance Consultant  about Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Life Insurance, Mortgage protection, Financial Products, Business  & Commercial Policies, & Group Products for business owners to give Employees benefits at no cost to the employer. My email is lee@myUSAssurance.com

New Insurer VYRD Launches to Address Challenges Faced by Florida Homeowners

December 14, 2021 Email This Subscribe to Newsletter Email to a friend Facebook Tweet LinkedIn Print Article

VYRD, a new insurance company serving homeowners in Florida, launched as a joint venture between SiriusPoint Ltd., a specialty insurer and reinsurer, and insurtech company bolt. VYRD will initially distribute its products through the independent agency network and affiliated partners.

Led by CEO David Howard, VYRD’s leadership team brings more than 75 years of combined experience insuring homes in Florida and the Gulf Coast.

SiriusPoint has experience in Florida and has been reinsuring the Florida homeowners market since 1980. Among the nearly 150 carriers bolt serves, 19 are Florida homeowners insurers, another 13 offer condo coverage in Florida and 12 offer Florida auto. VYRD is partnering with more than a dozen companies based in Florida or with roots in the sunshine state to provide services including actuarial rate development, underwriting, policy and claims administration and inspections.

Source: VYRD

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