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Hurricane Irma’s damaging rampage through Florida may require the state fund that provides backing to private insurers to pay up to $5.1 billion in claims.

Anne Bert, chief operating officer for the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, said Thursday the fund will be able to pay claims with cash. That means the fund will

The financial health of the fund is important because the state can impose a surcharge on most insurance policies to replenish it if money runs out. Some critics have called the surcharge a “hurricane tax.”

The fund entered storm season in good financial shape and new estimates conclude the fund could borrow up to nearly $8 billion.

The $5.1 billion claims estimate is preliminary, but actuaries said they based it on experience from previous hurricanes.

not have to borrow any money.

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Although insured losses as a result of Hurricane Irma will not be as severe as originally forecast, the storm still represents a sizeable catastrophe event that will test the infrastructure and potentially strain the financial wherewithal of some local and regional carriers in Florida, particularly those that are geographically concentrated, according to a new briefing from A.M. Best.

The Best’s Briefing, titled, “Hurricane Irma Tests Newer Participants in Florida Market,” notes that over the past decade, the number of more concentrated local/regional writers in Florida’s insurance market has increased as national writers pulled back on the state

The state-formed Citizens Property Casualty Insurance Corporation took on much of that risk exposure, and as a result, experienced significant financial pressure. This led to a fairly successful depopulation program, whereby private insurers were given incentives to assume policies from Citizens. This, along with other factors that included benign weather in Florida and favorable reinsurance pricing, prompted many new insurance companies to form.

According to the report, a number of new insurance companies were formed since 2007, writing nearly a fifth of the property market lines: homeowners, farmowners, fire and allied, and commercial multiperil (non-liability). Hurricane Irma represents the first severe event to test the strength of these business models, particularly with regard to risk selection, loss mitigation and potentially their reinsurance programs.

The report also states that with Hurricane Irma occurring in such close proximity to Hurricane Harvey, the demand for independent catastrophe claim adjusters has increased. A.M. Best-rated entities had already started strengthening their claims processes in response to the state’s Assignment of Benefit issues. Newer companies may face additional pressure from a lack of experience as well as limitations due to scale.

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The ads were out before the storm hit so be careful. Please remember to call me at The Acentria office at 954-351-1960. We also provide free quotes on Home Insurance, Auto, Flood, Private Flood, Car, Business & Commercial and Life, group and Health Insurance  products.

As Florida residents return home after being evacuated by Hurricane Irma, the pressure is on the insurance industry to keep a bad situation regarding assignment of benefits abuse in the state from getting worse.

Florida regulators, carriers, industry trade groups and lawmakers are all echoing the same advice to policyholders: now’s the time to contact your agent or insurer and file claims.

“CFO Jimmy Patronis and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier encourage Floridians to be prompt in notifying their insurance companies and cautious of repair deals that sound too good to be true,” the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation alerted consumers in a statement released Tuesday.

While Florida was spared the worst-case scenario by Hurricane Irma in terms of the storm’s strength, the state still suffered significant damage from wind and coastal flooding. Agents and carriers are just starting to deploy resources to affected areas, and stakeholders say timing will be of the essence as “bad actors” will be on the prowl for homeowners willing to assign to them the right to obtain insurance benefits to deal with damage to their homes.

“All consumers need to be on alert as they recover from Irma for fraudulent schemes and assignment of benefit scams so they don’t unknowingly sign away their rights,” said Chris Gardner, chairman of Citizens board of governors. “If unsure, agents are prepared to advise you and guide you through the claims process.”

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They say they have no choice after the Florida Legislature for the fifth year in a row failed to address the crisis in water damage claims abuse.

“We keep saying help us try to solve this problem,” said Michael Carlson, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida.

AOB will ultimately be addressed by the marketplace if lawmakers don’t do anything

Since lawmakers reneged on enacting reforms, insurance carriers are now taking matters into their own hands and the state’s regulator is warning consumers to be prepared.

“We will continue to see homeowners’ insurance companies raise their rates for our consumers in a best-case scenario, and in a worst case scenario just simply stop offering their products in certain regions of the state,” Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told the Florida Cabinet last month

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For South Florida homeowners, 2017 already figured to be a year of steep property insurance rate increases.

For customers of two insurance companies, state regulators have made those increases even steeper than the companies sought.

Why? State regulators say high costs stemming from excessive claims in the tricounty region requires the companies to charge customers more money than they would prefer.

The state “has an obligation to approve rates that are [financially] sound — which may be more or less than what a company requests,” said Sha’Ron James, the state’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, who did not participate in the rate decisions.

Two companies — Deerfield Beach-based People’s Trust Insurance and Tampa-based Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty — this week received approval for larger rate increases than they requested.

People’s Trust, with 54,267 home- and condo-owner policies in the tricounty region and 129,365 statewide as of Dec. 31, sought a 14.5-percent statewide average rate hike and instead got a 16-percent hike.

Homeowners Choice, with 53,040 home- and condo-owner policies in the tricounty area and 130,041 statewide at the end of the year, sought a 3.3-percent statewide average increase and instead got an 8-percent hike.

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VIII. Private Flood Insurance Bill (HB 813)


HB 813 mandates that the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Prevention Methodology revise hurricane loss prevention models every four years. Current law requires that an agent notify the insured that if they choose to leave the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and later return, they will pay the full-risk rate, not the NFIP-subsidized rate. Additionally, the agent must obtain a signed disclosure from the insured acknowledging such; current law requires the agent provide written notice to be signed by the applicant upon receiving the application to obtain private flood coverage. The new language allows the agent more flexibility by requiring the agent provide the signed notice at any point before the agent actually places flood coverage with a private insurer. However, the agent may avoid obtaining the acknowledgment if the NFIP allows insureds, at some point in the future, to return to the program at any time and still obtain the subsidized rate.


 The bill extends the sunset for insurers not having to get private flood rates approved from October 1, 2019 to October 1, 2025. The bill also extends from 2017 to 2019 an exemption from the diligent effort search requirement for surplus lines insurers. Also, if fewer than three admitted insurers are writing flood on July 1, 2019 when the diligent search exception expires, the agent may only obtain a number of declinations that meet the number of admitted insurers providing coverage. For example, if only one flood insurer is writing private coverage, only one declination will be required.


III. Assignment of Benefits (HB 1421)


There were a number of variations of legislation and amendments to rectify the AOB abuse epidemic throughout Florida. Unfortunately, no good AOB measure was able to succeed. However, we were successful in fighting off measures by the trial bar that would have enhanced the already prevalent AOB abuse.


There were two main vehicles addressing AOB. HB 1421 by Representative Grant, and SB 1218 by Senator Farmer. The House bill was the preferred vehicle for insurers, whereas the Senate bill was a trial-bar friendly initiative. The House bill would have required disclosures be provided to the insureds before entering into an AOB. It also would have moved to a “loser pays” attorney fee system. The House legislation provided the insured with an opportunity to rescind the assignment within 7 days of entering into the contract with the vendor. Further, the bill increased consumer protections and required vendors to provide written estimates of the work to be completed and required the assignee to notify the insurer of the assignment within 3 days of it being executed.


The Senate bill was amended a number of times and ultimately was not heard in its final committee. Generally, the Senate measure neglected to change the current attorney fee law for vendors, essentially endorsing the notion that vendors under AOB assignments are eligible to receive unlimited attorney fees. The Senate bill was extremely unfriendly to insurers and did not contain any attorney fee language. It required insurers to eliminate the costs of attorney gees on cases in which they lose a claim case in litigation from being part of the base rate and would have, essentially, ended the ability to utilize a managed repair program or ability to invoke the right to repair on a particular claim.   ( Welcome to Higher Home Insurance premiums)

IV. Workers Compensation


HB 7085 addresses the recent decisions declaring some components of Florida’s Workers Compensation law unconstitutional. The bill would permit direct payments of attorneys by or on behalf of claimants and increases the total combined temporary wage replacement benefits (TTD/TPD) from 104 weeks to 260 weeks. It also allows a Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) to award an hourly fee that departs from the statutory percentage based attorney fee limitation of $1500 under certain situations. Among several other components, HB 7085 also permits insurers to uniformly reduce premiums by no more than 5% if they file an informational-only notice within 30 days. Insurance industry representatives believe that the ability of a judge to award additional attorneys’ fees above the standard fee of $1,500 makes this bill less than ideal, and likely means that litigation will continue to expand causing rates to increase.


SB 1582 requires insurance carriers to authorize or decline requests for 

authorization from health care providers within a three-day period and provides that a request is deemed to be authorized if the carrier fails to respond. Like the House bill, the Senate bill increases the temporary partial disability benefits from 104 weeks to 260 weeks, in compliance with the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg. SB 1582 eliminates the statutory fee schedule of $1,500 for setting claimant attorney’s fees but allows the judge to consider certain factors and permit deviation from the attorney fee schedule. 



The two bills remained different between chambers through the end of session. The House sought to curb attorney’s fees and was more industry friendly than the Senate bill, which was seen as friendlier to the trial bar.


By Timothy J. Meenan, NAIFA-Florida Lobbyist

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Today officially marks day 50 of the regularly scheduled 60-day legislative session. The 50th day marks the last day for regularly scheduled Senate committee hearings by rule; the House does not have the same rule, but has historically followed the same timeline. There has been much discussion regarding when the chambers would begin the budget process, but they have not entered budget conference at this point. The House and Senate seem to remain at odds regarding the budget, which could shape the timeline of the rest of session.

AOB Reform SB 1038 (Hukill); HB 1421 (Grant); SB 1218 (Farmer) The House Commerce committee approved a committee substitute for HB 1421 last week. The CS was heard on second reading this morning on the floor. Representative Jenne attempted to add on a rate rollback amendment, but was unsuccessful. We anticipate the bill will be heard on final passage in the House and be sent to the Senate this week. The CS does the following: A. Makes assignments invalid if they don’t comply with the new requirements. B. Requires assignments to be in writing and executed by an insured and the assignee. C. Allows a rescission of the AOB by the insured for any reason within 7 days of the insured having executed the assignment. D. Requires the assignment to be sent to the insurance company within 3 business days after the date the assignment is executed or work has begun, whichever is earlier. E. Requires assignments to include a written cost estimate for the work to be performed. Requires work done by water remediation companies to be certified in a class approved by the American National Standards Institute. F. Contain a notice to the consumer that the AOB might result in litigation, and explaining the right to rescind in 7 days. G. Assignments cannot contain mortgage or check processing fees, penalties for rescission, or other administrative fees. H. Requires the assignee to prove that the insurer is not prejudiced if the assignee fails to maintain records of all services, cooperate with the insurer in the investigation of the claim, and providing the insurer with all requested records, or failed to deliver the new assignment within 3 business days. I. Assignees must provide additional updates on supplemental repairs as they are required. J. Assignees must perform the work in conformance with accepted industry standards. K. Assignees cannot seek payment for amounts denied from the insurer from the insured. L. Assignees must submit to EUO’s, participate in insurer required appraisal or alternative dispute resolution methods required in the policy. M. Assignments do not interfere with any managed repair requirements in law or the policy. N. Assignees must provide a written notice of intent to initiate litigation 10 days before filing suit, and include a specific pre-suit settlement demand, including a detailed written invoice and estimate including all labor and materials, etc. O. Insurers must respond to the 10-day notice of intent to initiate litigation within 10 days by making a pre-suit settlement offer. P. If the difference between the judgment obtained and the difference between the pre-suit demand, and the pre-suit offer is less than 25%, the insurer is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney fees. If the difference is at least 25 percent, but less than 50 percent, no party gets attorney fees. If the difference is greater than 50 percent, the assignee gets attorney fees. In calculating this requirement, the judgment cannot include interest, attorney fees, or costs, and only includes the damages recovered. Q. If an insurer fails to inspect the property, or provide written or verbal authorization for the repairs within 7 days of the first notice of loss, the insurer waives the right to an award of attorney fees. This section is waived if a claim is the result of an event where the governor declares a state of emergency. R. Starting in January 2020, and each year thereafter, the OIR must do a data call requesting AOB claims. Data includes data about claims adjustment and settlement timeframes, procedures, trends, litigated versus non-litigated loss adjustment expenses, and amount and type of attorney fees incurred or paid. S. Policies may not prohibit the post loss assignment of benefits. Industry input, including Citizens Property Insurance Corporation and the major homeowners’ insurers are that this bill is a good faith attempt to fix the problem, and appears to have the support of the majority of insurers. The plaintiffs’ bar absolutely hates the bill and is attacking it, so that tells you something. The senate bill, which is SB 1218 filed by Senator Farmer, is extremely unfriendly to insurers, does not contain any attorney fee reform language, requires insurers to eliminate the costs of attorney fees on cases they lose from being a part of the base rate, and essentially ends the ability to utilize a managed repair program or to invoke the right to repair on a particular claim. The Senate bill supported by the industry, SB 1038 by Senators Hukill and Passidomo, was not given a hearing in Senate Banking and Insurance, its first committee of reference. We do not believe the Senate will take the house bill, but we are working with the Governor to see if we can get this bill heard on the full senate Floor, where we might have a chance, with the Governors help, to get 21 votes.

Flood Insurance SB 420 (Brandes); HB 813 (Lee) SB 420 and HB 813 mandate that the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Prevention Methodology to revise hurricane loss prevention models every four years. The House and Senate bills differ in two respects. First, the House bill requires a surplus lines insurer to be rated by A.M. Best in order to be eligible to write flood policies without a diligent effort and the Senate bill requires a rating from any rating agency acceptable to the OIR. Second, the House bill allows flood insurance policies to be exported to the surplus lines market without a diligent effort only until July 1, 2025 and the Senate bill allows this for an indefinite period. HB 813 has one remaining committee stop, Commerce, before it can head to the floor. The Senate bill was heard by the Senate Community Affairs Committee and passed with a committee substitute. Senator Brandes filed an amendment the night before the bill was to be heard by the Rules Committee. The amendment would require certain National Flood Insurance Program disclosures be provided to and acknowledged in writing by the applicant within 21 days after the NFIP policy expires, and eliminates the requirement altogether if Congress ends the practice of requiring a consumer be charged the full risk rate if they leave the NFIP, and thereafter attempt to re-enter the NFIP. SB 420 was passed out of the Rules Committee and placed on the calendar for second reading. The House bill is slated to be heard today on second reading by the full House.

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