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AOB reform a key focus of Chamber Insurance Summit

(Citizens, Member News, Property Market) Permanent link

TALLAHASSEE—State law that was intended to ensure a level playing field between consumers and their insurance companies in the handling of claims has instead evolved into a windfall for some trial lawyers, contractors, and other vendors, according to a new report by the Florida Justice Reform Institute.

FAIA Capitol Days, January 26-27, 2016 
Curtailing AOB fraud is one of FAIA’s top Legislative priorities for 2016. Register for Capitol Days to support the effort.
 

The report, Restoring Balance in Insurance Litigation (PDF), calls on state lawmakers to amend Florida law to curb abuse of one-way attorney fees and Assignment of Benefits, or AOB. The one-way attorney fee statute allows trial lawyers to collect legal fees from insurance companies if they prevail in a claims dispute, but prevents insurers from recouping their legal costs if the court instead rules in their favor. Emboldened by the statute, plaintiffs gain negotiating power to inflate bills and gain attorney fees that are potentially unwarranted or disproportionate to any amount recovered.

Over time, the one-way attorney fee statute has become an incentive for trial lawyers, contractors and other vendors—often water damage remediation firms, roofers, or auto glass shops with aggressive marketing schemes—to file meritless lawsuits using Assignment of Benefits. AOB is intended to allow contractors to work directly with insurers in getting paid for work performed, without having the policyholder put up repair money. However, some third parties are soliciting AOB as a means of taking control of the policyholder’s benefits and then using that authority to inflate claims and file lawsuits, sometimes without the knowledge or consent of the policyholder.  

The Institute’s report, authored by Mark Delegal of Holland & Knight and Ashley Kalifeh of Capital City Consulting—two Tallahassee-based attorneys with extensive insurance experience—will be presented during the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s annual Insurance Summit Oct. 26-28 at the Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando. The event, of which FAIA is a sponsor, attracts Florida’s elected officials, insurance regulators, and private industry leaders to discuss the major trends and issues that affect Florida insurance consumers.

“Maintaining a healthy and competitive private insurance market is essential to ensuring Florida is an attractive destination for new businesses, capital investment and job growth, while also benefiting consumers with more choices in the marketplace,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Already, Florida’s lawsuit abuse climate is known as one of the worst in the country. Unfortunately, rampant Assignment of Benefits abuse is threatening to worsen our state’s legal climate and cost families more.”

The conference includes speaker presentations and panelist discussions on various insurance issues, including the property and casualty market, pricing and cost drivers, regulations, cyber security, medical malpractice, and workers’ compensation. A key focus will be one-way attorney fees and AOB, as outlined in the Florida Justice Reform Institute report.

“This report is the first, hard look at how the growing use of AOBs is increasing costs and litigation,” said William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute. “Policyholders just want to be made whole for their losses, but with an AOB, vendors and their lawyers are incentivized to increase the claim’s scope of work and maximize profit and litigation fees.”

Assignment of Benefits abuse has become widespread in South Florida and is quickly spreading throughout the state. State-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. says lawsuits over water damage claims are the main reason why it is raising 2016 premiums in the tri-county region of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties. Without AOB abuse, the rates for Citizens policyholders would have gone down. In addition, data mined from the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Service of Process Unit shows that AOB lawsuits have grown by 16,000 percent since 2000, and currently represent about one-third of all insurance litigation.

“As these water damage claims are absorbed by the insurance companies, it’s going to result in an increase in everyone’s homeowner premiums,” said Bob Rollins, an insurance agent for the Beacon Group in Boca Raton and a member of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents. “The best answer is a legislative approach. We need a law that has some teeth in it.”

Bills to address AOB abuse were introduced during the last three legislative sessions but failed amid intense lobbying pressure from trial attorneys, contractors, and vendors that use this scheme. Similar legislation is expected to be filed for the 2016 session.

“The one-way attorney’s fee was meant to benefit the insured. It was not meant to benefit third party corporate vendors,” Large said. “Until legislators clarify this principle, the problem will only get worse.”

During the conference, Chamber organizers plan to unveil an educational video about the risks of blindly assigning insurance benefits to a contractor or other third party. John Rollins, Citizens’ chief risk officer, and Angel Conlin, general counsel for the American Strategic Insurance Co., will also discuss AOB abuse and its impact on insurers and homeowners.


For more information, contact Edie Ousley, Florida Chamber of Commerce, 850-521-1231.

Florida Workers' Comp JUA honors Dannanhauer for 21 years of service

(Member News) Permanent link

Dannenhauer ResolutionDan Dannenhauer (pictured, far right), the owner and CEO of Five County Insurance Agency, Inc., in Ft. Myers and one of FAIA’s past chairs, was recognized for his 21 years of service to all Floridians through the Florida Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association (FWCJUA). Dan was one of the original members of the FWCJUA’s Board of Governors, served as vice chair of the board, and on many of its committees. For his achievement, the FWCJUA Board of Governors honored Dan with a resolution honoring his exceptional level of service. The resolution, presented June 10, 2015, reads as follows:

    WHEREAS, for nearly all of his professional life, Dan Dannenhauer has devoted his considerable talents to the property and casualty insurance industry, having founded Five County Insurance Agency, which is known as one of the leading insurance agencies in the state of Florida; having served as Chair of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents; and having earned the recognition of his peers as one of Florida’s foremost authorities in the field of insurance agency operations; and

    WHEREAS, Dan Dannenhauer was instrumental in the founding and organization of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association; having served the Association for 21 years as one of the original members of the Association’s Board of Governors; and serving as the Vice Chair of the Board of Governors and as a member of many of its most active committees; and

    WHEREAS, Dan Dannenhauer has well and truly served the Board, the Association, and its policyholders with honor and distinction, guiding the Association throughout its history; serving the Association with integrity; and lending his great intellect, instinctive leadership, and timely sense of humor to the important work of the Board.

    THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Governors of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association, Inc. that Dan Dannenhauer be recognized and honored for his exceptional service to the Board, the Association, and to the insurance consumers of the state of Florida, and for the legacy of exemplary leadership and integrity he leaves to the Board and this Association.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, this Resolution was duly adopted by the unanimous vote of the Board of Governors, at Tampa, Florida, this 10th day of June, 2015.

This Week in Insurance: October 26–30, 2015

(This Week in Insurance) Permanent link

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

  • Florida Cabinet, 9:00 a.m., Tallahassee. 
  • DFS Rule Workshop, Prelicensing education, 10:00 a.m., Tallahassee. 
  • Florida Senate, Session, 12:00 noon, Tallahassee. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

  • Florida Senate, Session, 10:00 a.m., Tallahassee. 

This Week in Insurance: October 19–23, 2015

(This Week in Insurance) Permanent link

Monday, October 19, 2015

  • Florida House of Representatives, Session, 12:00 noon, Tallahassee. 
  • Florida Senate, Session, 12:00 noon, Tallahassee. 
  • Florida House of Representatives, Reapportionment, 2:00 p.m., Tallahassee. 
  • Florida Senate, Reapportionment, 2:00 p.m., Tallahassee. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

  • Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, NCCI Public Rate Hearing, 9:00 a.m., Tallahassee. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • DFS Rule Workshop, Selection of Neutral Evaluator and Evaluation Process (sinkhole claims), 10:00 a.m., Tallahassee. 

2016 CIC and Ruble schedule set

(Member News, The National Alliance) Permanent link

Planning your professional development for the coming year? Here's a rundown of the CIC Institutes and Ruble Graduate Seminars for 2016. Pick your dates now; registration will open before the end of 2015.

2016 CIC and Ruble Schedule 

FAIA Education picks up another Diamond award

(Member News) Permanent link

The streak continues!

For the sixth consecutive year, FAIA’s Education department earned an Excellence in Insurance Education Diamond award from the national IndependentInsurance Agents & Brokers of America association. 

The award was presented during the Big “I” Education Convocation in New Orleans on Oct. 1, 2015.

“The Big ‘I’ Excellence in Insurance Education awards honor the outstanding contributions by Big ‘I’ state associations through extraordinary efforts in education,” said Sue Knobeloch, chair of the Big “I” Virtual University curriculum and research committee and executive director of Association of Risk Managers Northwest in Tacoma, Washington.

The EIE award celebrates and recognizes state associations and staff who have made significant contributions to education for their members and the industry through class offerings, continuing education (CE), professionalism, designation offerings, industry collaboration, planning goals, marketing, resources, and more. 

Florida YAC named committee of the year

(Young Agents Council) Permanent link

2016 YAC AwardThe National Young Agents Committee (YAC) of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) presented its most prestigious annual award Oct. 2, 2015, to the Young Agents Council of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents during the annual Fall Leadership Conference in New Orleans.
 
“The Big ‘I’ is pleased to announce that, in recognition of their outstanding efforts on behalf of the independent agency system to cultivate and inspire the next generation of industry leaders, the Young Agents Council of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents is the 2015 Outstanding Young Agents Committee of the Year,” said David Walker, the 2014-2015 Big “I” chairman and president of Hartland Insurance Agency in Hartland, Michigan. 
 
The Young Agents Council of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents has received numerous other awards in previous years. 

“The Big ‘I’ Young Agents Committee is proud of the young agents all over country who support and promote the independent agency system and young agent chapters and programs in every state,” said Boyd McGehee, national Young Agents Committee chairman and president of Talladega Insurance in Talladega, Alabama. “The state young agent programs are creating the next generation of insurance leaders. They encourage political involvement, association membership, communications, community service, education and industry perpetuation through InVEST.”

Walker presented the awards at the 2015 Big “I” Young Agents Leadership Institute in New Orleans. 

“Young agents are our future leaders and the lifeline of the independent agency system,” says Robert Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO. “We are proud of our young agent committees all over the country and excited to have them moving up the ranks. Their hard work, dedication and creative projects help cultivate future industry and association leaders.”

Founded in 1896, the Big “I” is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of approximately a quarter of a million agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life, and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com. 

This Week in Insurance: October 5–9, 2015

(This Week in Insurance) Permanent link

Tuesday, October 6, 2015