|Date:||January 31, 2017|
|Source:||The Daytona Beach News-Journal|
DAYTONA BEACH - It's not uncommon for plumbers called in to fix a broken pipe to ask a homeowner to sign an assignment of benefits form before making repairs.
Faced with the immediate need, many agree to sign, which transfers the right to file an insurance claim to the plumber.
In most cases, there is nothing wrong with that, said Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, who spoke Tuesday at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Holiday Inn Daytona Beach LPGA Boulevard hotel.
But in recent years, there has been an increase in claims in Florida where the amount sought to cover repair costs is significantly more than the insurer believes it ought to be.
Those disputes typically end up in court where the real winner winds up the law firm representing the contractor, whether a plumber or roofer, because the judgments include attorney's fees, Altmaier said.
Altmaier expressed concern that some contractors, possibly at the suggestion of unscrupulous law firms, deliberately over-inflate claims.
"What we believe is that mechanism is being used by a small amount to abuse the system, which could cause rates for everyone to go up," he said.
Altmaier said he is urging state lawmakers to approve changes that would take away incentives for law firms to encourage such abuses while preserving homeowners' ability to transfer assignment of benefits.
He said the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation's priorities are ensuring the availability of reliable, affordable insurance products.
Altmaier's advice to homeowners? Understand you are not obligated to transfer assignment of benefits; notify your insurance company before making repairs, and know the Florida Department of Financial Services stands ready to answer questions at 877-693-5236.