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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...Sun-Sentinel: “Sides in insurance standoff find reason for optimism”


“Sides in insurance standoff find reason for optimism”
Sun-Sentinel | Story by Ron Hurtibise
June 15, 2016

To Read the Full Article Click HERE
The arguments were familiar at a daylong forum in Boca Raton attended by 150 players in Florida's homeowner insurance rate crisis.

But unlike their usual methods of venting over the past four years — legislative hearings in Tallahassee, websites, letters to the editor — the opposing sides listened to each other.

And that gave Sha'Ron James, the state's Insurance Consumer Advocate, reason to hope a consensus might be possible that could head off the gloomy prospect of property insurance rate increases for years to come.

James organized the forum in Boca Raton to ensure participation by the tri-county area's plaintiff's attorneys, water restoration companies, insurance industry representatives and public adjusters.

Homeowner insurance rate hikes have been proposed by numerous companies this year, including Heritage Property & Casualty, which seeks an average 14.9 percent statewide increase. Citizens warned recently of annual 10 percent hikes for the foreseeable future if increases in non-weather-related water loss claims and related lawsuits are not brought under control.

Insurers say water restoration companies pressure homeowners to sign over the rights to collect policy benefits after emergencies such as broken pipes or water heaters, then inflate invoices and file suits if insurers deny claims or offer too little. Restoration companies often delay reporting damages so they can complete costly repairs before insurers can inspect, insurers say.

Restoration companies and attorneys say insurers routinely underpay and take too long to respond to customers.

Accusations were plentiful at the forum, held in the large recruiting room of Florida Atlantic University's football stadium. But so were suggestions for reforms that participants said shouldn't be difficult for all sides to accept.

James said she plans to issue some policy recommendations by the end of summer that will require sacrifices from all sides. "I believe all stakeholders bear some responsibility," she said.