POINT OF VIEW: AOB lawsuit-for-profit scheme can’t be ignored


Another year with home insurance rate increases and no real action by the Florida Senate regarding assignment of benefits (AOB) reform. Despite overwhelming evidence of rising water claims and lawsuit-for-profit schemes, the Florida Senate continues to ignore the real insurance problem and refuses to properly fix this ongoing, devastating issue.

There is no denying these schemes exist. Some plaintiffs’ law firms have even hosted seminars to teach contractors, water mitigation vendors and public adjusters how to capitalize on AOB. If these firms really have the homeowners’ best interests in mind, then there should be seminars for the homeowners themselves.

We also can’t ignore the new reality: According to Florida’s former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, AOB-related property insurance claims in Florida skyrocketed from 843 in 2010 to a whopping 28,000 in 2016. And, the 2017 AOB Data Call of Florida home insurers clearly shows the frequency and severity of AOB water claims are growing rapidly. The frequency of water claims per 1,000 policies has increased by 44 percent since 2015, and the combined impact of changes in frequency and severity resulted in an average 42.1 percent increase in water losses each year.

Unfortunately, the lobbyists for trial lawyers, water cleanup vendors and public adjusters have done everything they can to stop real reform. Fortunately, the House passed HB 7015, which included meaningful reforms that promised to control the cost drivers, fraud and abuse threatening homeownership affordability.

However, the Senate’s response was to push SB 1168, a bill that does nothing to reform the lawsuit-for-profit environment or the abusive practices of some vendors and public adjusters.

When it comes to AOB, the Florida Property & Casualty Association agrees with Florida’s insurance commissioner that any reform legislation must prevent vendors and contractors from seizing the homeowner’s special one-way attorney’s fee right. That law is meant to protect the homeowner, not bad actors looking to profit off the homeowner’s claim.

Until the Florida Senate puts a stop to lawsuit-for-profit schemes, those bad actors will continue to milk otherwise legitimate claims, and the rest of us will continue to pay the price in the form of higher homeowner insurance premiums.

WILLIAM STANDER, TALLAHASSEE

Editor’s note: William Stander is executive director of the Florida Property & Casualty Association.



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