Florida Chamber-Backed Assignment of Benefits Bill Heads to House Floor

By: Carolyn Johnson

The Florida Chamber of Commerce today applauded the House Commerce Committee for moving forward House Bill 1421, which takes positive steps toward stopping Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. James “J.W.’’ Grant (R-Tampa), contains commonsense consumer protections that would curb abusive AOB practices that are driving up insurance premiums and threatening the affordability of home ownership for many Floridians.

This bill is a strong starting point for addressing AOB abuse and the resulting rising insurance rates caused by unscrupulous repair vendors and trial attorneys. We are encouraged by the House Commerce Committee’s action to keep AOB reform efforts alive this session and are calling on lawmakers in the Senate to follow the House’s lead.

The Florida Chamber continues to affirm that any legislation to reform AOB should eliminate one-way attorney fees, which create incentives for third parties to sue insurers over inflated claims without financial risk.

Both Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. CEO Barry Gilway have testified that one-way attorney fees are the single-biggest factor fueling the explosion of water damage claims and AOB lawsuits that are driving up insurance costs for consumers. While HB 1421 does not provide an outright ban on one-way attorney fees, it does provide some restrictions on their use, which is an improvement over the current situation.

While we continue to believe strongly that AOB reform efforts must eliminate one-way attorney fees, we are pleased that the House bill acknowledges that one-way attorney fees are a serious problem and must be addressed. The attorney fee provisions in Rep. Grant’s bill are a clear step forward.

The Florida Chamber noted that legislators have heard testimony for five consecutive years about the growth of AOB abuse. Legislators have also received clear data and evidence from the state’s insurance regulator and from Citizens that homeowners – especially those living in the tri-county area of South Florida – will see their annual homeowners’ premiums rise by thousands of dollars over the next five years if the Legislature fails to enact reforms.

Failing to take action this session to protect consumers will only worsen the AOB problem, leading to more lawsuits and higher insurance rates for consumers, not just in South Florida, but in many other areas of the state.

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