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Imagine filing a claim with your insurance company for hurricane damage and, months later, not only is your home not fixed, but you get served with a lawsuit by your insurance company.

Dozens of South Florida customers of Deerfield Beach-based People’s Trust Insurance are finding themselves in an unlikely and possibly unprecedented position — they’re being sued by their insurer.

Since July 1, People’s Trust has filed at least 242 lawsuits against its policyholders in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to court records. Of those, 161 have been filed since Nov. 17, a day after the Sun Sentinel first reported the strategy.

The new suits include 113 against the company’s customers in Miami-Dade, 38 in Broward and 10 in Palm Beach County.

Attorneys for some of the defendants accuse the company of using the suits to bully their clients into accepting subpar repairs — and punish them for securing help from lawyers and independent public adjusters.

When People’s Trust decides to sue a customer, it’s intimidating, especially for people who have never been involved in a suit, said Anthony Lopez, a Coconut Grove-based attorney who specializes in insurance litigation.

Anthony Tinelli, a Miami attorney who formerly worked as a defense attorney for People’s Trust, said he’s representing seven Hurricane Irma victims who were recently sued by the company. “For one insurance company to sue its homeowners to that extent is unprecedented,” he said.

Another Miami-based attorney, Rafael Alonso, attributed the recent surge in lawsuits by the company to disputes over Hurricane Irma claims. “I’ve never seen an insurance company, especially after a natural disaster, suing its insureds,” he said.

People’s Trust says the attorneys and public adjusters generate disputes by preventing the company from sending its affiliated repair contractor — Rapid Response Team — to fix customers’ homes, as the customers agreed to allow when they signed up with the insurer. In exchange, policyholders were given a discount off their premiums, usually totaling $200 or less, the suits state.

People’s Trust and Rapid Response Team are both among a suite of related companies owned by entrepreneur George W. Schaeffer.

Please read the full article below

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-peoples-trust-insurance-sues-100-more-customers-20180419-story.html

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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.

Please read & enjoy the full article below;

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-insurance-rate-hikes-20170509-story.html