“We Are Here From The Government, We Are Here To Help You”
The Florida Senate and House leadership have sold out to the insurance industry. They have gutted individual policyholder rights. They have effectively prevented policyholders from being able to hold cheating insurance companies accountable. I do not know what happened to the Republican conservative value that cheaters should be held accountable.
Here is the bottom line on the practical effects of these proposed laws:
- No more AOBs.
- No chance of bringing an action against an insurer violating claims handling statutes harming a policyholder absent a trial court judgment in an underlying suit. In other words, bad faith actions are effectively dead in Florida except in rare circumstances.
- Policyholders have to pay all of their attorney’s fees—even if the insurance company wrongfully denies, underpays, and delays their claims regardless of the insurer’s bad faith.
- People will have to represent themselves or simply give up if an insurance company underpays a smaller claim because it is uneconomical to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit.
- Insurance companies can prevent access to courts by placing mandatory arbitration provisions.
- Changes the burden of proof to make Citizens policyholders prove that water damage is from wind damage rather than the burden on the insurer to prove that the flood caused the damage.
- Makes Citizens policyholders pay for flood insurance.
- There is no means for a policyholder to enforce penalties for late payments.
- Allows insurers to do an adjustment without ever going to the structure by using photos and digital means to estimate the claim.
- Policyholders have only 18 months to complete repairs and replacement of the property and contents and provide changes to the claim.
- Before filing a lawsuit against an insurer, a policyholder has to file a very expensive notice of intent to sue with all the extensive documentation supporting all the claimed amounts. This makes filing a lawsuit more difficult and expensive.
The bottom line is that the Florida political leaders wrote minimal sham consumer protection provisions with no teeth in an attempt to cover up these laws that harm policyholders. Policyholders could not enforce these provisions even if they knew of them. Instead, they would have to complain to the government. Then the government merely calls the insurer to say “stop.”
Unlike the majority of states, Florida has no first-party bad faith cause of action at common law. Further, Florida common law does not allow foreseeable compensatory damages caused by an insurer’s breach of contract. So, by altering the civil remedy statute, Florida policyholders, except in rare circumstances, have no remedy for the harm caused by a bad-acting insurer. The practical impact is that it invites a Florida insurer to deny, delay and underpay on a systemic basis.
What good is insurance if it does not pay promptly and fully? These new proposed laws and the elected officials voting for them are simply selling out to the insurance industry. There is no way to sugarcoat it.