Rep. David Santiago Speaks to Florida Chamber Members on Importance of International Trade

Speaking to Florida Chamber members, partners and Consuls General during an International Days dinner, Representative David Santiago (R- Deltona,), Vice Chair of the House Transportation & Ports Subcommittee, shared his insights on his experience visiting Taiwan and the importance of and impact that trade can bring.  Rep. Santiago also remained supportive to opening up avenues to trade and recognized efforts to promote trade through such events as the Florida Chamber’s International Days.

With more than 2.5 million jobs in Florida supported by international trade, trade missions can help open up opportunities for Florida’s manufacturers and exporters to do business and create even more jobs. In fact, 92 percent of Florida’s exports are manufactured goods and in 2014, Florida sold products to 227 counties/territories. For this reason, the Florida Chamber will be a part of Enterprise Florida’s trade mission trip in April to South Korea-Taiwan.

“Rep. Santiago’s comments encouraging international trade efforts are an important message for all Floridians to hear,” said Alice Ancona, Director of Global Outreach for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

 

Here’s How To Get Involved:

1.      ATTEND ENTERPRISE FLORIDA’S TRADE MISSIONS.

2.      VIEW AND SHARE the latest FloridaWins.org video on the impacts of global trade.

 

Florida Chamber-Backed Bills Save Floridians Money and Improve Florida’s Insurance and Legal Climates

Thanks to the outreach of Florida Chamber members and volunteers, several lawsuit abuse reform bills have passed their committees in the Florida House and Senate. Be sure to send these legislators a thank you note by clicking the appropriate links below. The following is an update on these bills:

Property Insurance Reform – Assignment of Benefits

HB 669 sponsored by Rep. John Tobia (R-Melbourne) and SB 1064 sponsored by Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), allows insurance companies to write policies that prohibit the post-loss assignment of benefits or rights other than for purposes of payment. This protects the homeowner by allowing them to maintain the rights of their policy but allows the contractor or subcontractor to be directly paid by the insurer.

This legislation is important to Florida’s business community because the bill:

  • Protects insurers against inflated claims by allowing the homeowner to maintain control of the repair and mitigation process
  • Balances the rights of the homeowner and the insurer when a loss occurs
  • Clarifies that insurers can prohibit the post-loss assignment of benefits as a part of an insurance policy
What’s Next:
  • HB 669- Has one more hearing at the Regulatory Affairs Committee, before being heard on the House Floor
  • SB 1064- Has two more hearings, with the Senate Judiciary Committee up next
Learn More:

Read an article by Rep. David Santiago on how assignment of benefits (AOB) forms are being abused. Send these legislators a thank you note for their hard work on these bills by clicking here.

Lawsuit Abuse Reform – Bad Faith/Fair Settlement

HB 1197 sponsored by Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola) and SB 1088 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R- St. Petersburg),specifies that the claimant, insured, or third party representing the claimant or insured must provide a written notice as a precedent to bringing a third-party bad faith claim. This will help improve Florida’s costly bottom 10 legal climate.

This legislation is important to Florida’s business community because the bill:

  • Allows insurers to act in good faith prior to a bad faith lawsuit being brought forward
  • Decreases frivolous litigation by trial lawyers
  • Improves Florida’s legal environment under which businesses operate
What’s Next:
  • HB 1197- Has two more hearings, with the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee up next
  • SB 1088- Has three more hearings, with the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee up next
Learn More:

Visit our Legal Reform Page and learn where we stand on this issue. Also, send these legislators a thank you note for their hard work on these bills by clicking here.

Lawsuit Abuse Reform – Accuracy in Damages

HB 1199 sponsored by Rep. Larry Metz (R-Groveland) protects businesses from increased costs by ensuring accuracy in the damages paid in personal injury actions. This reduces “phantom damages” or inflated costs in these personal injury cases by allowing the jury to have information on the actual cost of medical care.

This legislation is important to Florida’s business community because the bill:

  • Ensures payments are made for actual and necessary medical expenses
  • Decreases frivolous litigation by trial lawyers who inflate medical damages to increase costs on businesses so they can receive a higher fee
What’s Next:

•HB 1199- Has one more hearing remaining at the House Judiciary Committee, before being heard on the House Floor

Learn More:

Visit our Legal Reform Page and learn where we stand on this issue. Also, send these legislators a thank you note for their hard work on these bills by clicking here.

Prejudgment Interest

SB 794 would allow interest to be charged on damages from the date the injury or tort occurred, not from the date the legal decision was made. More companies will be forced to settle to avoid increased legal costs as a result of additional interest in a drawn out legal system.

This legislation is bad for Florida’s business because the bill:

  • Further deteriorates Florida’s legal climate and image as a “gotcha” state
  • Increases the cost of personal injury lawsuits, which is already a significant cost to Florida’s employers, by charging interest before a legal decision has been rendered
  • Forces more companies to settle, despite the merit of the claim, to avoid paying interest for ongoing litigation

What’s Next:

  • SB 794- Has three more hearings, with the next hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee
Learn More:

Due to the high response rate from Florida Chamber members and volunteers, this bill has been postponed in the Senate for the third consecutive week.

Statewide Leaders Dive into Leading Insurance Issues at the Florida Chamber’s insurance Summit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261
eousley@flchamber.com

CFO Jeff Atwater, Property Insurance and Expensive
Cost Drivers Exploiting Homeowners Take Center Stage

 

ORLANDO, FL. (January 27, 2014) – Statewide leaders are gathered in Orlando today for the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Insurance Summit  with one common goal- building on Florida’s successes by tackling remaining insurance-related challenges. Leading financial regulators, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Florida’s Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, kicked off the day-and-a-half summit that also included a discussion of leading cost drivers that are exploiting homeowners and consumers.

“[The Florida Chamber’s Insurance Summit] is an important gathering. In fact, I would say that the importance cannot be understated,” said Michael Carlson, Executive Director of Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). “The prominent thought leaders, prominent stakeholder groups, company executives and representatives, legislators, elected officials, academics all gather under the auspices of the [Florida] Chamber at this event to talk about the problems that we face in property insurance and other insurance markets and more importantly talk about solutions, smart solutions, to address these problems.”

Kicking off the day-and-a-half statewide summit, CFO Atwater applauded the Florida Chamber for bringing insurance industry leaders together to develop solutions that will make Florida more competitive.

“It matters that you’re having these conversations over the next couple of days to navigate ahead toward making sound public policy and advance Florida toward the attraction of capital and making Florida more competitive,” said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. “The debate will be about how these ideas will create a better environment for consumers to have choice for the best possible deal.”

Insurance Commissioner McCarty highlighted Florida’s insurance successes – especially with Citizens Property Insurance – and how insurers and consumers alike are saving money.

More than 250 insurance professionals gathered in Orlando to focus on a leaner Citizens Property Insurance and how the role of Florida’s financial backstop, the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, is evolving. Major cost drivers exploiting homeowners – exaggerated claims from unscrupulous contractors resulting in padded profits – also took center stage.

“Imagine this: You wake up to find your kitchen flooded from a broken pipe. You frantically call a water extractor who arrives and says, ‘Don’t worry. Just sign these forms and we’ll handle everything’,” Representative David Santiago, (R-Deltona), recently wrote. “The truth is, you’ve just signed away control of your insurance claim and may have permitted unscrupulous third parties to inflate the cost of the work. Ultimately, you could be sued or face a lien on your property for the difference between what your insurer legitimately owes the contractor and what was actually billed.”

Claims filed under an “assignment of benefits’’ or “AOB” form, which was intended to save homeowners money when having contracted work done, often get abused by unscrupulous vendors- which puts the insurer at risk of being unrightfully sued, driving up costs for businesses and homeowners alike.

“There’s no question that the assignment of benefit situation in Florida is out of control,” said Barry Gilway, CEO, President and Executive Director of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. He also shared with Florida Chamber Insurance Summit attendees that 85 percent of water claims come from an attorney, not the homeowner or an adjuster, which drives up costs through litigation.

Improving on Florida’s bottom-10 legal climate, PIP reforms and a checkup on Florida’s economy – as well as its electorate – round out today’s agenda.

On Wednesday, members of the Florida House and Senate will gather to provide a legislative overview of what to expect during the 2015 Legislative Session. Private flood insurance markets, as well as a discussion of major Florida Supreme Court cases that could impact Florida’s workers’ compensation system, will be a part of Wednesday’s conversation. Click here for a more complete agenda.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Home Repair Insurance Claim Fraud Hammering Florida

BY DAVID SANTIAGO

Imagine this: You wake up to find your kitchen flooded from a broken pipe. You frantically call a water extractor who arrives and says, “Don’t worry. Just sign these forms and we’ll handle everything.”

The truth is, you’ve just signed away control of your insurance claim and may have permitted unscrupulous third parties to inflate the cost of the work. Ultimately, you could be sued or face a lien on your property for the difference between what your insurer legitimately owes the contractor and what was actually billed.

Similar scenarios are playing out daily across Florida, at a cost to homeowners paying higher insurance rates because of exaggerated claims.

At issue are claims filed under what’s called an “assignment of benefits’’ or “AOB” form. The form was designed to allow insurance payments to go directly to the contractor for work performed without the homeowner having to pay money up front.

Unfortunately, assignment of benefits has been abused by some vendors who intentionally keep homeowners in the dark about the nature, cost and status of their claim. Worse, when these contractors present an inflated claim to an insurance company, they sometimes use the AOB form as the basis for suing the insurer on behalf of the homeowner.

The issue will be a key topic addressed during the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s annual Insurance Summit Jan. 26-28 in Orlando. As a member of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, I consider assignment of benefits a significant problem plaguing Florida’s insurance consumers and plan to address it during the upcoming legislative session, which starts in March.

We can’t afford to wait. Although Florida has been fortunate to go nine years without a hurricane affecting insurance rates, we have seen an explosion in claims made by water extraction firms, roofers and other contractors using assignments of benefits to pad their profits.

Former Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott warned that the issue is driving up homeowners’ insurance rates by about 17 percent annually. In some parts of the state, claims settled with an assignment of benefits form averaged $32,000, nearly triple the amount of claims settled without one.

To make matters worse, state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. revealed last year that for every dollar in premium it was collecting in Florida, it was paying out 27 cents in water damage claims. In Miami-Dade County alone, Citizens paid out 51 cents of every dollar on water claims.

By contrast, only 18 cents of every dollar Citizens collected statewide was being set aside to pay claims for a future hurricane. In other words, our state insurer was spending more on water claims than it was on preparing for the next catastrophic storm.

Florida lawmakers are evaluating how to stop this before it gets worse. Possible fixes should allow consumers to remain involved in their own insurance claim while permitting the legitimate use of assignment of benefits.

 

State Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, is a member of the Florida House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee.