The Florida Senate signed a major reform of Florida insurance regulations on Wednesday.
The Senate has approved the measure (SB 76) in a 27-13 plenary vote, the bill would eliminate attorney multiplier fees and allow for roofing policies that cover a fraction of the cost of repairs.
“We need to reassure homeowners that if they open their envelopes and receive renewal rates next year, they will not be crushed,” Sen said. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican and the bill sponsor.
Boyd said the legislation addresses a growing crisis for insurance carriers in Florida. As domestic airlines face losses in the industry, homeowner policy renewal rates are increasing. The bill also provides that roofing policies will provide for a depreciated payout in lieu of the full replacement cost for roofs that are more than 10 years old.
Boyd said 85,000 lawsuits were filed against insurers in Florida just last year. $ 15 billion in damages have been ordered since 2013, and only 8% of that went to homeowners, while lawyers collected 71% of legal fees.
Boyd is an insurance broker by profession, Boyd said, even with access to a number of plans, his own house prices will rise 40% this year.
But Democrats argue that the reforms will include draconian measures for litigation without rates falling.
“We are all feeling the pinch of rising real estate rates,” said Sen. Tina Polsky, a Broward Democrat. “I think the focus should be on our voters. If we target lawyers as a problem, we won’t find a solution here. “
Insurance lawyers have called on lawmakers on fears of skyrocketing costs as more expensive lawsuits affect the industry. A recently “Rate train“An advertising campaign targeted at lawmakers said prices could rise for fixed income seniors and working families.
Floridaians for Lawsuit Reform Executive Director David Santiago praised the passing of the bill.
“With the Florida Senate passing SB 76, relief for millions of Florida homeowners is one step closer to reality,” he said. “Ending litigation abuse, roofing fraud and outrageous legal fees is critical to protecting Floridians from billions in higher rates and giving customers property insurance choice. We thank the bipartisan senatorial coalition that voted today to stand up for homeowners, and we hope that the House of Representatives will work with the Senate to drive meaningful reform of property insurance. “
But Florida litigation attorneys fought hard against the proposal, saying the only reason court costs affected the airlines’ bottom line is because they are taking their own customers to court too often.
Democratic leader in the Senate Gary Bauer emphasized this in disputes in the plenary hall, where he also made public property insurance a task.
“Insurance companies pay legal fees if they’re wrong,” Farmer said. He argued that horror stories of fees far in excess of damages paid to consumers showed how hard insurers sometimes struggle not to help their own customers. “Let’s stand up for the little guy or the little girl.”
Boyd called some of Farmer’s allegations against citizens slanderous and praised the institution.
The Democrats have pushed a number of amendments aimed at better protecting consumers and retaining their ability to protest decisions by insurance companies not to pay claims. One of these would have required a reduction in tariffs for consumers.
“I wish we could have accepted some of the changes that made it more consumer-friendly,” Sen said. Darryl Rouson, a Pinellas Democrat.
Regarding roofing policy specifically, the Democrats argued that many homeowners would not even realize that the full cost of replacing a roof is not covered until they are billed. Boyd countered that, like many household appliances, roofs have a life expectancy.
During the committee hearings, many panhandle homeowners are still on trial on hurricane claims Michael in 2018 argued that the bill will only limit their ability to resolve matters with airlines.
But Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from Pinellas, helped draft the legislation, saying any measure in the bill applies tried and tested guidelines from other states. Provisions that limit the time insurers can file a claim to two years still offer a lot of time compared to Louisiana, which only allows six months, he argued. Texas had introduced and removed an attorney multiplier fee and saw prices go down, he said.
“There’s not much in this bill that is in line with what other states are doing,” he said.
Proponents argued that without new reforms, interest rates would double in three years, and the legislature could even be forced into a special session to deal with rising interest rates.
Corporate law in-house (HB 305), sponsored by Rep. Bob Rommel, a Republican from Naples, has acquitted two committees and now heads the trade committee.