Insurance Group Pushes Legislative Agenda
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) has issued their recommendations for the 2018 Florida Legislative Session. PCI hopes Florida legislators focus on curtailing assignment of benefits abuse and outlawing texting while driving.
Assignment Of Benefits Abuse
Insurance companies saw a rise in the assignment of benefits abuse after Hurricane Irma struck this past fall. PCI Regional Manager Logan McFaddin indicated that contractors were able to take advantage of those who signed over their insurance benefits unknowingly. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done here from a legal standpoint. Contracts are often binding, and victims may have a difficult time proving that they were maliciously duped.
There has also been a sharp increase in abuse of benefits in auto insurance cases. This is considered a common problem with Florida’s no-fault insurance policy. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation indicated in July last year that there were 10,000 pending lawsuits throughout the state, a 33% increase from July 2016. A majority of those lawsuits can be found in three counties:
• Palm Beach
Statistics from the Florida Department of Financial Services also indicate that auto insurers had approximately 20,000 abuse of benefits lawsuits filed against them in 2016. Ten years prior, there were only 400 abuse of benefits lawsuits filed against auto insurance companies.
PCI has endorsed behind Senate Bills 62 and 396 by Senator Dorothy Hukill, House Bill 7015 by the House Judiciary Committee, and House Bill 811 by Representative Rene Plasencia. Bills 396 and 811 focus on auto glass repair abuse.
PCI has indicated that auto glass repair companies have also been taking advantage of vehicle owners.
Bill 62 is legislation that is intended to prevent attorney fee awards and thereby reduce water damage claims litigation. This bill would impact cases involving the assignment of benefits to third parties. Bill 396 would allow insurers to inspect car windshields for damage prior to their replacement.
According to the House’s website, Bill 7015 “requires notice of intent to initiate litigation & award of attorney fees for claims under assignment agreement.” Bill 811 is similar to Bill 396, in that it allows auto insurers to inspect for damage before authorizing a windshield repair.
Texting While Driving
PCI also seeks to ban texting and driving across the state. Statistics from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles indicates that automobile fatalities have drastically risen 43% since 2014. 46 states have banned texting and driving, making Florida one of the four remaining that have yet to do so.
They have voiced their concern not only over the increase in accidents and fatalities but the increase in auto insurance costs as well. PCI has thrown their support behind Senate Bill 90 by Senator Keith Perry and House Bill 33 by Representative Jackie Toledo. Bill 90 would directly address the use of wireless devices while operating a vehicle. Bill 33 would make texting and driving a primary offense, meaning drivers could be pulled over if they are witnessed breaking this law.