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A new study released by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) finds that Florida’s assignment of benefits (AOB) crisis has cost consumers billions of dollars in unnecessary litigation and inflated claim costs as the abuse continues to spread statewide.

“In Florida, abuse of AOBs has fueled an insurance crisis,” the report says of the misuse of the policyholder protection known as AOB. “The state’s legal environment has encouraged vendors and their attorneys to solicit unwarranted AOBs from tens of thousands of Floridians, conduct unnecessary or unnecessarily expensive work, then file tens of thousands of lawsuits against insurance companies that deny or dispute the claims.”

The I.I.I. report says the AOB “mini-industry has cost consumers billions of dollars as they are forced to pay higher premiums to cover needless repairs and excessive legal fees.”

An AOB is a document signed by either an auto or homeowners policyholder which allows a third party, such as an auto repair shop or a roofer, to seek direct payment from an insurer on a policyholder’s behalf. In Florida, a policyholder is permitted to sign an AOB document without notifying their insurer or seeking the insurer’s consent. The abuse has stemmed from the third parties with a signed AOB working with plaintiff’s attorney to sue an insurer when the insurer disputes an inflated bill from the third party.

Please enjoy the full article below;

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/12/12/511654.htm

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Please call Lee at 954-270-7966 for free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Business & Commercial policies & Life, Health and all types of group & Financial products.

Total estimated insured losses from Hurricane Michael have reached more than $2.1 billion, according to the most recent data from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

The current number of claims from Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm that hit the Florida Panhandle before continuing a path of destruction through several other Southeast states, had reached 110,183 with 26.1 percent of that total number of claims closed as of Oct. 30, 2018. OIR compiled aggregate information from claims data filed by insurers covering all claims based on filings received.

The lines of business included in the total number of claims are residential property, commercial property, private flood, business interruption and miscellaneous other lines.

Residential property losses account for the majority of the total claims at 78,045 – 57,088 of that number is homeowners claims. Only 20.7 percent of residential property claims were closed as of Oct. 30.

The percentage of commercial property claims closed was lower at 10.3 percent of the 4,471 claims received. Only 460 business interruption claims had been filed so far, with 9.1 percent of those closed to date.

Just 64 flood claims had been filed as of Oct. 30, with 37.5 percent of those claims already closed.

The Florida Department of Financial Services said in a statement Wednesday that Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state insurer of last resort, had 3,231 claims as of Oct. 29.

Please enjoy the full article below;

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/11/01/506263.htm

Please call Lee from Acentria Insurance at 954-270-7966 for free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, private Flood, Car, Business & Commercial policies and Life, health and all types of group policies as well for individuals or businesses large and small.

In an effort to keep the Florida assignment of benefits (AOB) crisis from further worsening in the state, Florida’s insurance industry, regulators and consumer advocates are on high alert for AOB activity in the wake of Hurricane Michael and working to educate consumers on the pitfalls of signing over their policy rights.

“Consumers need all the information they can get to help navigate making repairs to their homes and vehicles, and we’re working hard to provide resources to help prevent Floridians from becoming victims of AOB scams,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which spearheads the Consumer Protection Coalition, formed in 2017 to tackle the state’s AOB epidemic.

pressuring some to sign an assignment of benefits contract. Check with your insurance agent, insurance company, or call my office before you sign anything,” Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis warned in an Oct. 15 press release from the Department of Financial Services. “Storms bring out the best in people, but unfortunately, they bring out the worst in some. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Florida’s AOB problem has stemmed from unlicensed water remediation and roofing contractors who have homeowners sign over their insurance policy rights in exchange for needed repairs to their homes, and then file inflated or fake claims with the insurer. When those claims are disputed or denied, these contractors file a lawsuit that insurers are often left footing the bill for.

Carriers across the state have seen an increase in litigation because of inflated claims, which is leading to increased costs for policyholders. According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, there were 405 AOB lawsuits across all 67 Florida counties in 2006, and by 2016 that number had risen to 28,200.

State officials have warned that the AOB issue could become even worse in the aftermath of a large-scale disaster, such as Hurricane Michael, due to a large number of claims triggering a contractor shortage, and people who are anxious to get repairs started on their homes assigning their insurance policy benefits to contractors.

Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said before Michael hit that scenario was one of his biggest concerns, and noted the quick handling of claims would help ensure people are not taken advantage of

Please enjoy the full article below;

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/10/18/504876.htm

Please call Lee from Acentria Insurance at 954-270-7966 for free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, private Flood, Car, Business & Commercial policies and Life, health and all types of group policies as well for individuals or businesses large and small.

Florida’s insurance regulator has issued an emergency order that ensures “additional protections” to Florida policyholders – including freezing any rate hikes for 90 days – to support recovery efforts in areas impacted by Hurricane Michael.

The order by Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier suspending and activating certain insurance rules was issued Oct. 15 in response to an executive order by Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

The order requires that insurers:

  1. Provide an additional 90 days to policyholders to supply required information to their insurance company. Many Floridians were displaced during this dangerous storm, and providing additional time to submit information to insurance companies gives them needed flexibility.
  2. Rescind for 90 days all non-renewals or cancellations issued to policyholders in the days leading up to Hurricane Michael. This gives policyholders 90 days to either renew their insurance policy, or find a new policy; and
  3. Freeze any and all efforts to increase rates on policyholders for 90 days.

“Governor Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis have made it clear that the expectation for Florida’s insurance companies is to expeditiously respond to policyholders’ needs and to treat families fairly. The quick response of insurance companies is critical to the recovery of Florida families following Hurricane Michael,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Altmaier said the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is working to “ensure every possible step that can be taken to assist those impacted by Hurricane Michael will be executed as soon as possible.”

Please enjoy the full article below;

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/10/16/504583.htm

 

Please call Lee from Acentria Insurance at 954-270-7966 for free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Business & Commercial & Life, Health Group and all financial products

In a significant turn of events in the insurance industry’s fight against Florida assignment of benefits (AOB) abuse, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal (DCA) has ruled that an insurer’s anti-assignment provision was not prohibited.

But the battle isn’t over yet as it is likely this decision will be brought to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Fourth DCA ruling came on Sept. 5, 2018 in the case of Restoration of Port St. Lucie, a/a/o, John and Liza Squitieri v. Ark Royal Insurance Co., in which the court disagreed with a decision by the Fifth DCA in Dec. 2017 prohibiting any such conditions.

The Fourth DCA found that a homeowner’s insurance policy may contain a restriction requiring the consent of all of the insured and the mortgagees before a valid assignment of benefits. The ruling could allow insurers to seek to use these restrictions to stem the rise of fake or exaggerated claims and allow parties with valid, vested interests in a property to have a say in the assignment. The ruling could be a turning point in stemming abuse of AOBs that is leading to increased homeowner insurance rates statewide.

Please enjoy the full article below;

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/09/20/501785.htm

Please call Lee from Acentria Insurance at 954-270-7966 for free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Business & Commercial & Life, Health & all group products.

“I think the number one thing the insurance industry can do is link AOB (assignment of benefits) to the impact that it’s having on the individual consumer and the huge impact it’s having on the premiums that the consumer’s paying,” Barry Gilway, president, CEO and executive director of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. told attendees in a recent Insurance Journal webinar on Florida AOB abuse

Education, education, education, Gilway said, will be critical to slowing the Florida AOB epidemic that is leading to higher insurance rates, reduced coverage and a potential insurance market crisis in the state.

Gilway was one of a panel of four experts participating in the “Florida AOB Crisis: Where Does the Industry Go from Here?” webinar conducted by Insurance Journal on June 26.

Logan McFaddin, regional representative for the Property Casualty Insurers Association (PCI), Paul Huszar, CEO of remediation contracting company VetCor, and Patrick Wraight, director of the Insurance Journal Academy of Insurance, joined Gilway in discussing the AOB situation in Florida and ways to rein in what they all agreed is runaway abuse.

The AOB problem in Florida stems from unlicensed water remediation and roofing contractors who have homeowners sign over their insurance policy rights in exchange for needed repairs to their homes. The contractors, typically working with an attorney, file inflated or fake claims, and then pursue lawsuits against insurers when those claims are disputed or denied. Because of Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute, insurers are left footing the bill for the inflated claims and the attorney fees if the insurer is found to have underpaid the claim by any amount.

Carriers across the state have seen an increase in litigation because of these inflated claims. According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, there were 405 AOB lawsuits across all 67 Florida counties in 2006, and by 2016 that number had risen to 28,200.

But Citizens, the state-run insurer of last resort, has borne the brunt of the abuse. It reported in its 2019 rate hearing in June that it would spend $70 million this year defending AOB-related litigation – equal to 17 percent of its total premium.

Please enjoy the full article below;

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/07/19/495520.htm

Please call Lee from Acentria Insurance  at 954-270-7966 for free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Business & Commercial & life , Health & all types of group & business products.

On the official start of the 2018 Hurricane Season, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis reminds Floridians of the importance of financial preparedness before the next storm. CFO Patronis warns that homeowners insurance policies contain limitations and exclusions and it is important to review your policy to understand your coverages.

“Last year, Hurricane Irma alone resulted in more than $8 billion in insured losses. If you haven’t already, now is the time to financially prepare for the 2018 Hurricane Season,” said CFO Jimmy Patronis. “Understanding your insurance coverage is a vital part of the hurricane preparedness process. Check your homeowners insurance policy and understand what is covered and what is excluded so that you have adequate coverage.”

Homeowner’s insurance policies vary from company to company. Here are eight insurance coverages you may consider for hurricane season:

Windstorm Coverage (if not included in your current homeowners policy).
Windstorm coverage may be excluded if you live in a wind pool area (generally within 1,000 – 1,500 feet of a body of water, such as the gulf or the ocean).

Flood Insurance (if not included in your current homeowners policy).
Flood coverage may be included in your current homeowners policy by endorsement, or a separate policy may be issued. This coverage is important to have even if you are not in a designated flood zone.

Food Spoilage.
Food spoilage is not always covered by most policies; however, if the coverage is included, most companies cover food spoilage due to a power outage caused by direct physical damage on the insured premises.

Sinkhole Coverage.
This covers sinkhole losses on any structure, including personal property. Coverage may be restricted to the principal building, as defined in the policy.

Additional Living Expenses/Loss of Use.
This provides for the “additional” expenses of living elsewhere due to a loss to the insured residence by covered damage.

Inflation Guard Endorsement.
This endorsement may be added to most policies and provides for an automatic percentage increase in coverage amounts to help keep your coverage aligned with current construction costs.

Replacement Cost Endorsement.
This pays up to the limits for the replacement of a damaged or destroyed home or property, without deducting depreciation. This is different from Actual Cash Value, which pays for the actual value of damaged items and does not consider depreciation.

Law and Ordinance.
This pays an additional amount to apply towards the cost to rebuild or repair damages due to the enforcement of any ordinance or law regarding construction, repair, or demolition.

Consumers should speak with their insurance agent or company to confirm the coverages on their policy as soon as possible. Once a storm develops, their insurance company may be under binding restrictions, and they may be unable to obtain a separate policy or add these important coverages to their current policy. Consumers should keep in mind that some property insurance companies offer flood coverage as an endorsement to the homeowners’ policy, and typically there is a 30-day waiting period to obtain coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

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