Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Votes Favorably for SB 122

On March 4, 2019, in a five to three vote, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee passed SB 122— a bill related to attorney fee awards under insurance policies and contracts.

The Florida Chamber-backed bill, sponsored by Senator Doug Broxson, levels the playing field between insurers and service providers and subcontractors and provides a step toward real Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform.

In 2018, there were more than 34,000 AOB lawsuits filed, compared to only 405 AOB lawsuits in 2006. Increasing amounts of AOB abuse are costing 90 percent of Florida families an increase in their homeowners’ insurance.  Florida’s bottom-five legal climate, including AOB fraud and abuse, costs Florida families an average of $4,442 a year. The Florida Chamber will continue to support SB 122 and other efforts that protect consumers and small businesses from billboard trial lawyers trying to make a payday.

A proposed committee bill (PCB CSJ 19-01) related to AOB reform will be heard in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday.

We Need Your Support

We’re hearing that busloads of trial lawyers are making their way to Florida’s Capitol to oppose important legal reform efforts, including AOB reform. PLEASE TAKE 2 MINUTES to help us improve Florida’s bottom-five legal climate by contacting members of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee TODAY and urging them to vote yes on PCB CSJ 19-01 (AOB Reform), HB 17 (Tort Reform) and HB 355 (Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine).

 

AOB Fraud and Abuse is Targeting Home and Auto Owners

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and its Consumer Protection Coalition have long-warned about a scam known as Assignment of Benefits (AOB) that is making it more expensive for Floridians to own a home and a car. Today there’s further evidence of just how bad the situation in Florida is…and it’s impacting your employees.

A story today by The Tampa Bay Times shows just how bad it is in Florida – a 1,300 percent increase in the number of lawsuits filed by third party contractors against insurance companies.

Here’s How It Works

In communities across Florida, car and truck owners are approached at a gas station or car wash by auto glass repair vendors claiming they can replace cracked or chipped windshields for free. The auto owner signs an AOB – giving away control of their insurance policy to a third party auto glass vendor. The vendor then submits an inflated claim to the auto insurance company, and then files a lawsuit if the insurer refuses to pay the outrageously ridiculous priced repair.

Making the situation worse are one-way attorney fees that require insurers to pay the other party’s legal fees.

Don’t Become a Victim; Here’s How You Can Help

The Florida Chamber and the Consumer Protection Coalition encourage you to beware of this scam, and help us educate your employees.

  1. Sign this petition asking lawmakers to put a stop to AOB abuse in home repairs and auto glass repairs.
  2. Help us spread this message to more Floridians by chipping in $100 toward our Public Service Campaign to alert consumers just like you.

Florida House Passes Bill Cracking Down on Assignment of Benefits Consumer Abuses

The Florida House of Representatives today passed a bill cracking down on Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse against consumers – a Florida Chamber of Commerce top priority.

House Bill 1421, sponsored by Rep. James “J.W.” Grant, includes consumer protections that would curb abusive AOB practices that are driving up the cost of insurance and threatening the affordability of home ownership for many Floridians.

“The House’s action is a big step toward ending costly AOB abuse and protecting Florida’s homeowners and businesses,’’ said EDIE OUSLEY, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, we urge the Senate to recognize the impact that AOB abuse is having on consumers’ wallets and approve the House bill before another year passes without protections for Florida families.’’

Why It Matters

Florida insurance regulators and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. have provided legislators clear evidence of the growing problem of AOB abuse, its impact in driving up costs for consumers, and the dramatically rising number of AOB lawsuits. Without reforms, homeowners – especially those in the tri-county area of South Florida – can expect to see their homeowners’ insurance premiums increase by thousands of dollars over the next five years.

HB 1421 contains commonsense provisions to protect consumers against unscrupulous repair vendors who, working in cahoots with litigious trial attorneys, pressure homeowners into signing over their insurance policies, and then inflate the cost and scope of repair work and file lawsuits against insurers that refuse to pay. While the legislation does not eliminate one-way attorney fees, which are the single biggest factor driving the explosion of AOB lawsuits, it does provide some restrictions on their use aimed at reducing incentives for third parties to sue insurers over inflated claims.

Here’s How You Can Help

The Florida Chamber and its Consumer Protection Coalition are actively advocating to stop AOB fraud and abuse. Add your name to the nearly 2,000 homeowners that have signed a petition encouraging lawmakers to pass meaningful consumer protections.

AOB Fraud Forces Policy Changes at Citizens Property

In Florida, there’s a rapidly growing scam in which shady home repair vendors pressure homeowners to sign away the rights and benefits of their insurance policies as a condition of performing work. This practice has led to grossly inflated claims and an explosion of Assignment of Benefit lawsuits against insurers, which is driving up the cost of homeowners’ coverage for consumers.

As a result, Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s largest government insurer, recently announced policy changes that will impact the handling of claims – especially claims for emergency repairs. These changes, which will take effect on or after July 1, 2016 for new or renewed policies, are designed to help curb AOB fraud and abuse.

Policy Changes Include:

  • The policyholder must take emergency measures to prevent further damage, and the policy includes only what is reasonable and necessary up to $3,000 or 1 percent of their coverage limit, unless Citizens approves additional measures.
  • Citizens can inspect and adjust the claim. Permanent repairs cannot take place until 72 hours after
  • Citizens has been notified, or the loss is inspected by Citizens, or verbal or written approval is given by Citizens property insurance.
  • These policy changes have only been approved for Citizens Property Insurance by the Office of Insurance Regulation. However, we anticipate other insurers soon might follow suit.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and its Consumer Protection Coalition continue to fight for solutions to AOB fraud and abuse – particularly addressing one-way attorney fee provisions.

Join our efforts by signing this petition, and stay tuned for additional updates as we continue pushing back against billboard trial lawyers.