March 14, 2016
With the 2016 Legislative Session completed, the Florida legislature has failed to pass a meaningful solution to the assignment of benefits (AOB) crisis that is now rapidly spinning out of control. Organized and carried out by a handful of vendors and lawyers, this kickback-driven lawsuit-for-profit scheme is already punishing homeowners with higher rates, and threatens to do so for years to come.
Legislation originally filed by state Sen. Dorothy Hukill and Rep. Matt Caldwell would have protected consumers by preventing a handful of vendors and their lawyers from stealing homeowners’ insurance policy rights and using them to pad their own pockets.
A news release by state-sponsored home insurer Citizens Insurance stated that water losses in South Florida will drive up rates in the region by (the maximum) 10 percent annually for many years to come. In Miami-Dade County alone, Citizens projects a preliminary 2017 rate increase of 189.6 percent. (By law, Citizens cannot raise its rates more than 10 percent per year.)
It is important to note, of the more than 85,000 lawyers admitted to The Florida Bar, and the nearly 6,000 trial lawyers, 40 percent of all assignment of benefits lawsuits involving restoration vendors in 2015 were filed by just five law firms and 57 percent were filed by 10 law firms. In total, 85 percent of these suits were filed by only 31 law firms.
Now, as a result, even without a hurricane making landfall, property insurance rates are set to skyrocket for all Floridians while a small group of greedy vendors and their lawyers get rich. Florida deserves better.
William Stander, executive director of the Florida Property & Casualty Association (FPCA), may be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org