AOB Law in Effect Should Lower Insurance Premiums in Sunshine State, Reformer Predicts

Florida Record, By John Suayan, July 20, 2019

TALLAHASSEE — Consumers statewide should finally see an end to rising insurance premiums because of a new law that took effect July 1.

House Bill 7065 reforms assignment of benefits (AOB) law, which critics argued got out of control with lawyers teaming up with contractors to get homeowners to sign away their insurance rights. In exchange for the assignment, lawyers who took advantage of the law would promise to handle repairs to the homeowners’ property and often file inflated claims with an end game of getting insurers to pay legal fees.

William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, praised Gov. Ron DeSantis for prioritizing passage of AOB reform, House Bill 7065.

“Gov. DeSantis really rolled his sleeves up to get this done. He showed incredible leadership during the legislative session,” Large said. “It is obvious the governor is first and foremost concerned about Florida’s consumers.”

What was arguably the official end to a decade-long fight for reform took place in late May when DeSantis signed the measure..

Click here to read the entire article in the Florida Record.

Florida Chamber-Backed Lawsuit Abuse Reform Bills Pass House Committees

 

Watch Senator Gruters     Sign AOB Petition

 

Lawmakers in the House continued to take steps to improve on Florida’s bottom-five legal climate by passing two Florida Chamber-backed lawsuit abuse reform bills today, including:

  • Assignment of Benefits Reform –HB 7065
  • Damages – HB 17

HB 7065, made its last committee stop today in the House Judiciary Committee and will move forward for debate on the House Floor in the coming weeks.

We will keep you up-to-date as lawsuit abuse reform legislation moves forward.

Three Ways to Get Involved

  1. Watch Senator Joe Gruters discuss his top priority bills on the latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line.
  2. Sign the petition seeking AOB reform by visiting www.FightFraud.Today.
  3. Be the first to know when registration opens for the Florida Chamber’s annual Insurance Summit taking place November 2019.

Let 2019 be the Year the Legislature Puts Consumers Ahead of Trial Lawyer Scams

Right now, your state legislators in Tallahassee have an opportunity to lower the cost of living for Floridians. That’s good news for everyone, but it’s particularly good news for those living in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties that are artificially paying higher home and auto insurance rates than they should.

The reason rates are unusually high in the tri-county region is because Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are at the epicenter of a home and auto repair abuse scheme that’s sending rates skyrocketing. It’s known as “assignment of benefits,” or AOB, and last year there were more than 135,000 AOB-related lawsuits in Florida – up from just 1,300 in 2000. The numbers are real and alarming.

AOB abuse rewards a few at the expense of many. It’s become a cottage industry for trial lawyers and shady contractors and vendors who roam neighborhoods looking for their next victims.

 

Here’s How It Works

A homeowner wakes up to a water leak in their kitchen and calls a plumber. The plumber encourages the homeowner to hire a vendor for clean-up and damage mitigation. Often secretly, the vendor pays the plumber a “referral fee.”

The vendor then asks the homeowner to sign some forms, saying that they’ll take care of everything including dealing with the insurance company. What the homeowner doesn’t know is their signature transferred all of the rights to their insurance policy over to the vendor who doesn’t have their best interest in mind.

Far too many homeowners are left with shoddy repairs or no repairs made at all, and then the vendor submits inflated repair bills to the insurance company – setting it up to deny the claim because of the overpriced bill. When the claim is denied, the vendor teams up with a trial lawyer to sue the insurance company in the name of the policyholder – without you ever knowing!

 

It Gets Worse

Florida law allows for one-way attorney fees, meaning the vendor’s lawyer gets paid if the insurer settles the lawsuit to avoid a costly legal battle or loses by as little as $1 in court. Bottom line: Vendors are incentivized to sue because they don’t have much to lose.

The AOB scheme didn’t exist until several years ago when a few creative trial lawyers discovered a loophole and started teaching vendors how to use AOBs to pad their profits. From 2008 to 2018, AOB lawsuits increased by over 900 percent, while total lawsuits in that same period increased just over 400 percent. Five firms filed more than 20 percent of all property AOB lawsuits, and even worse, nine firms filed nearly 85 percent of all auto glass AOB cases.

According to the Florida Justice Reform Institute, AOB lawsuits are growing much faster than the population, going from little more than a few hundredths of a point as a fraction of Florida’s population to nearly a full three-quarters of a percent now.

Eleanor Posner of Delray Beach can attest to how bad the problem is. She became a victim of AOB abuse following a water leak in her laundry room. A vendor charged her insurance company $12,000 for the water removal and drying, then filed a lawsuit when the insurer disputed the inflated amount. Because she signed an AOB, she was powerless to do anything about it and lived in fear of the vendor coming after her for the balance or placing a lien on her home.

 

Helping to Stop AOB Abuse

The Consumer Protection Coalition, spearheaded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, is leading the effort to help stop these abusive practices. AOB reform is vital to lowering the cost of living on families – Floridians that fill the jobs that keep our state’s economy growing.

We’ve joined in supporting AOB reform legislation in the Florida House and Senate – reform that the Wall Street Journal has for two years said is long overdue. Governor Ron DeSantis said recently he hopes lawmakers pass legislation to reform AOB, which has “degenerated into a racket.” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Barry Gilway also have warned that something must be done to stop the abuse.

 

Floridians Supporting a Legislative Fix March to Capitol

Shoring up that support are the voices of more than 10,000 Floridians who have signed petitions calling on lawmakers to close the loophole that lines the pockets of a few trial lawyers while it harms everyday Floridians.

With hurricane season only a few months away, Floridians simply can’t wait any longer.

Join Us in Calling on Lawmakers to Make 2019 the Year AOB Reform Finally Passes

  1. Contact your Representative and Senators – encourage them to pass AOB reform (SB 122 & HB 7065).
  2. Sign the petition for AOB reform.
  3. Be the first to know when registration opens for the Florida Chamber’s annual Insurance Summit taking place November 2019.

 

PS: Earlier this morning, the Florida House took an additional step toward AOB reform when it passed HB 7065 out of the House Judiciary Committee. It is expected to be heard by the full House soon.

 

 

March 28, 2019

Lawmakers Continue Advancing Bills to Improve Florida’s Legal Climate

 

Watch Senator Doug Broxson      Sign the AOB Petition

 

During the third week of the legislative session, lawmakers in both the House and Senate continued to take steps to improve on Florida’s bottom-five legal climate and lower the cost of doing business for Florida’s families and small-businesses.

Four Florida Chamber-backed lawsuit abuse reform bills passed their respective committees this week:

  • Assignment of Benefits Reform – SB 122 and companion HB 7065
  • Dangerous Instrumentality—SB 862 and companion HB 355

SB 1464, a bill related to Fair Settlement, and HB 17, a bill related to Damages, were also on committee agendas this week but were temporarily postponed. These bills are still available to be put on the agenda in the future.

We will keep you up-to-date as lawsuit abuse reform legislation moves forward.

Three Ways You Can Get Involved

  1. Watch Senator Doug Broxson talk about the importance of AOB reform on the Florida Chamber Bottom Line.
  2. Sign the petition seeking AOB reform by visiting www.FightFraud.Today.
  3. Be the first to know when registration opens for the Florida Chamber’s annual Insurance Summit taking place November 2019.

Act Today to Help Stop AOB Abuse

AOB Clears Senate Committee; Up in House Committee Today

Thanks to your calls and support, a Florida Chamber-backed bill related to Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform continues to make its way through the Senate. SB 122 sponsored by Senator Doug Broxson passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 18.

On March 19, the House companion bill, HB 7065, is set to be heard at 3:30 p.m. in the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.

TAKE ACTION TODAY
Take two minutes to email members of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and voice your support for HB 7065.

 

A special thank you to Senator Broxson and co-sponsor Senator Ed Hooper for their leadership in making AOB reform a priority in the Senate. And thank you to Representative Bob Rommel and Representative Mike Caruso for also leading the fight for AOB reform in the House.

We’ll keep you posted as both bills continue through the legislative committee process.

Lawmakers Continue Advancing Bills to Improve Florida’s Legal Climate

 

Watch Senator Doug Broxson      Sign the AOB Petition

 

Lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives continue taking steps to improve on Florida’s bottom-five legal climate and lower the cost of doing business on Florida’s families and small-businesses.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee and the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee passed three Florida Chamber-backed lawsuit abuse reform bills this week:

  • Medical Malpractice- PCB CJS 19-02
  • Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine- HB 355
  • Duty of Good Faith – HB 751

Three additional lawsuit abuse reform related bills are expected to be heard on Monday in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, including AOB reform (SB 122). Also, on Monday, SB 1464 (Fair Settlement Act) and SB 862 (Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine) are expected to be heard.

Three Ways You Can Get Involved:

  1. Watch Senator Doug Broxson talk about the importance of AOB reform on the Florida Chamber Bottom Line.
  2. Sign the petition seeking AOB reform by visiting www.FightFraud.Today.
  3. Read Florida Chamber CEO’s Point of View: Florida lawmakers must fix the assignment of benefits crisis.

Florida Chamber Bottom Line: Senator Doug Broxson

 

Sign AOB Petition

 

 Senator Doug Broxson is Leading the Charge on AOB Reform

 

On the latest Florida Chamber Bottom Line we sat down with Senator Doug Broxson, Chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, to discuss the adverse effects of Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse, and the bill he is proposing to put an end to it.

“For over 100 years, we never had a problem with how to file a claim,” said Broxson. “In 1974, we had the first AOB claim ever filed, and then in 2018 we had 36,000.”

Help Stop AOB Abuse:

If you have friends or family who own homes or register cars in Florida, please consider forwarding them this message and ask them to sign up for our support list here. The shady lawyers and contractors are telling legislators that everyday Floridians don’t really care about insurance reform. The more people we have on our side, the easier it is for us to prove them wrong and put and end to the schemes.

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).

 

Fixing Florida’s Broken Legal System

 

Download One Pager     Lawsuit Abuse Reform

 

Why It Matters to Florida

Lawsuit abuse in Florida is an increasingly serious and expensive problem, and thanks to a few in Florida’s Legislature, that keeps getting worse. Florida’s bottom five legal environment is an open invitation for “gotcha” lawsuits that cost Florida families an average of $4,442 each year in lawsuit abuse costs, and the American Tort Reform Association recently ranked Florida as the worst “Judicial Hellhole” in the nation, second only to California.

Florida’s Competitiveness Agenda

While Florida boasts a growing economy and job creation numbers that out-pace the national average, in order to ensure Florida is on the right path toward becoming the number one business climate in the nation, we must fix Florida’s broken lawsuit system.

A broken lawsuit climate creates:

  • Increases in claims, resulting in more than 34,000 Assignment of Benefits cases in 2018-up from 405 a decade ago.
  • Unjustified lawsuits that continue to burden medical professionals, creating an unfair medical liability environment.
  • Unstable insurance markets for both homeowners and auto-owners.

The Florida Chamber along with our partners at the Florida Justice Reform Institute and the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform will continue to push for common sense reforms that fix Florida’s broken legal system.

The Fight for Free Enterprise Continues

Lawyer billboards throughout Florida attest that lawsuits are big business here. But most Floridians aren’t fooled by ads proclaiming to be “for people” when in truth they usually mean “for the plaintiffs’ lawyers.” Until Florida’s courts are seen as fairer for all the people, the forecast for broader economic growth will be cloudy.

Act Now:

Join us in reforming Florida’s unfair lawsuit abuse climate by contacting Carolyn Johnson at cjohnson@flchamber.com.

Senate Takes Steps Toward AOB Reform 

 

Consumer Protection Coalition

 

On January 22, the Senate Committee on Banking & Insurance met to discuss an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform bill that will help reign in AOB abuse — Senate Bill 122.

The Florida Chamber applauds Senator Doug Broxson for proposing SB 122 and the committee for engaging in bold dialogue and seeking meaningful insights from industry experts, including Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, the Office of Insurance Regulation and Citizens Property Insurance. 

Meaningful reforms have failed to cross the finish line in past years and as a result, we have seen hardworking individuals continue to fall victim to shady contractors who have convinced them to sign away their rights— ultimately leaving them high and dry without recourse.

Consider that, in 2006, there were only 405 AOB-related lawsuits. Last year, the number skyrocketed to more than 34,000.

We cannot afford another year without AOB reform. 

Engage With Us

  1. Visit the Consumer Protection Coalition to see how you can fight fraud today.
  2. Connect with Florida’s new Governor, members of the Cabinet and the Florida Legislature during the Florida Chamber’s 2019 Legislative Fly-In and Global Florida Dinner.

New Study Says AOB Abuse Increasing Insurance Costs in Florida

A new study released by the Insurance Information Institute confirms Florida’s assignment of benefits (AOB) crisis is costing Floridians billions of dollars in unnecessary litigation and inflated claim costs and is continuing to spread statewide.

“We estimate Florida’s auto and homeowner policyholders have paid about $2.5 billion in insurer legal costs over the past dozen years, a troubling trend driven by plaintiff’s attorneys who are abusing Florida’s current AOB system,” said James Lynch, the I.I.I.’s chief actuary. “That doesn’t count the billions more in excess claim settlements that are at the heart of the problem.”

According to the report, in Florida, abuse of AOBs has fueled an insurance crisis. Florida’s legal environment, the report adds, 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.’s report citing AOB lawsuit abuse is supported by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) which last week announced Florida as the worst “Judicial Hellhole” behind only California.

The Florida Chamber and its Consumer Protection Coalition are leading efforts to reform Florida’s “one-way attorney fee” statute that is fueling AOB abuse.

“This new report highlights the price that Florida’s hard-working families are paying because of unchecked AOB abuse and out-of-control litigation,” Edie Ousley, Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, told the Insurance Journal. “We look forward to working with Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and the new leadership in the Senate and House to pass real consumer protections and put an end to AOB abuse during the 2019 legislative session.”

 

Learn More and Take Action

  • Read the complete Insurance Information Institute report here.
  • Read the latest on the report from the Insurance Journal here.
  • Learn why ATRA ranks Florida the worstJudicial Hellhole behind California.
  • Take action! Sign the Consumer Protection Coalition petition seeking legislative action to reform AOB abuse.

 

How the Florida Insurance Industry Hopes to Rein in AOB Crisis

Originally Published by the Insurance Journal
July 19, 2018

 

“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.

Click here to read the complete article in the Insurance Journal.

Business Coalition Meets Hurricane Season With Consumer Warning Against AOB Abuse and Fraud

The Florida Chamber’s Consumer Protection Coalition has issued an alert warning Florida homeowners and insured drivers to beware of Assignment of Benefits (AOB) scams this hurricane season. The warning coincides with the launch of a new series of digital ads aimed at protecting people from becoming victims of AOB abuse.
….

“This hurricane season, Floridians need to be aware of AOB abuse and not become a victim,’’ said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the coalition’s main driver.”

Read the full Florida Politics article. 

 

Three Ways You Can Help

  1. Share this Consumer Warning to warn Florida policyholders of AOB lawsuit scams
  2. Sign the petition to stop AOB property insurance scams
  3. Sign the petition to stop AOB auto glass scams

Florida Chamber Urges Senate Judiciary Committee to Oppose SB 1168

 

Download Letter     Insurance Reform     Legal Reform

 

 

To: Senate Judiciary Committee

The Florida Chamber of Commerce urges you to oppose SB 1168, related to assignment of benefits. This bill, proposed by Senator Greg Steube, will be heard Tuesday, February 6, 2018 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Florida has among the highest property insurance rates in the country. This rate problem is driven, in part, by an issue known as assignment of benefits, which allows businesses to sue other businesses under their homeowner’s insurance policy. The result has been overinflated claims, increased litigation, and frustrated consumers who unknowingly signed their insurance policy over to a third party.

Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t fix the AOB problem, and may even result in a step backward. SB 1168 fails to comprehensively address attorney fees, which incentivize the use of AOB forms and increase litigation. SB 1168 also prohibits managed repair programs, which are used by some insurers to help address rising claims costs. Finally, and most importantly, the bill fails to fully protect consumers from unscrupulous contractors that are taking advantage of consumers through the misuse of AOBs.

This bill is opposed by Florida’s business community because it:

  • Fails to comprehensively address attorney fees, which should be available to the homeowner but not to unscrupulous contractors in a business to business lawsuit;
  • Strengthens the use of AOBs and fails to protect homeowners from their misuse; and
  • Will not reduce rates, which are increasing due to the exponential increase in AOB lawsuits. Over the last ten years, the number of AOB lawsuits have risen from 405 to 28,183.The Florida Chamber urges you to oppose SB 1168, and will consider votes on this legislation, and any substantive amendments to it in committee or on the floor, in our annual How They Voted report card. Because of the importance of this issue to employers across the state, our Board of Directors has determined that this bill, and any substantive amendments to it in committee or on the floor, will be counted twice on our legislative report card. The grade that you earn will be based on your voting record on the issues, such as this one. We will make every effort to notify you prior to a vote that may be included in our annual legislative report card. If you have any questions about this or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards,

Frank C. Walker, III
Vice President of Government Affairs

Florida Chamber Urges Senate Committee to Oppose SB 1168

 

Download Letter     Insurance Reform     Legal Reform

 

 

To: Senate Community Affairs Committee

The Florida Chamber of Commerce urges you to oppose SB 1168, related to assignment of benefits. This bill, proposed by Senator Greg Steube, will be heard today, January 16, 2018 in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

Florida has among the highest property insurance rates in the country. This rate problem is driven, in part, by an issue known as assignment of benefits, which allows businesses to sue other businesses under their homeowner’s insurance policy. The result has been overinflated claims, increased litigation, and frustrated consumers who unknowingly signed their insurance policy over to a third party.

Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t fix the AOB problem, and may even result in a step backward. SB 1168 fails to comprehensively address attorney fees, which incentivize the use of AOB forms and increase litigation. “Offer of settlement” is a problematic process that has often been further challenged in the court system. SB 1168 also contains a provision where attorney fees would not be allowed to be included in rates, which could create solvency concerns over time. Finally, and most importantly, the bill fails to fully protect consumers from unscrupulous contractors that are taking advantage of consumers through misuse of AOBs.

This bill is opposed by Florida’s business community because it:  Fails to comprehensively address attorney fees, which should be available to the homeowner but not to unscrupulous contractors in a business to business lawsuit;  Strengthens the use of AOBs and fails to protect homeowners from their misuse; and  Will not reduce rates, which are increasing due to the exponential increase in AOB lawsuits. Over the last ten years, the number of AOB lawsuits have risen from 405 to 28,183.

The Florida Chamber urges you to oppose SB 1168, and will consider votes on this legislation, and any substantive amendments to it in committee or on the floor, in our annual How They Voted report card. Because of the importance of this issue to employers across the state, our Board of Directors has determined that this bill, and any substantive amendments to it in committee or on the floor, will be counted twice on our legislative report card. The grade that you earn will be based on your voting record on the issues, such as this one. We will make every effort to notify you prior to a vote that may be included in our annual legislative report card. If you have any questions about this or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards,

Frank C. Walker, III
Vice President of Government Affairs