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Report points to problems with AOBs, and a way around one proposed fix

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As the Legislature debates restricting attorney fees in insurance litigation involving assignment-of-benefits agreements, a tort-reform group has identified a way to circumvent that fix. Attorneys could convince policyholders to file suit in their own name. A report, “Restoring Balance in Insurance Litigation,” released Monday by the Florida Justice Reform Institute, discusses that possibility in the context of what it called abuse of “AOB” agreements, and of Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute. That law allows policyholders to sue insurers without the risk, should they…

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Contractors mount defense of assignment of benefits agreements

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Home repair contractors lashed out against calls for a crackdown on assignment of benefits agreements during testimony before a key Senate committee Tuesday, insisting such contracts protect homeowners and reputable remediation businesses. They argued instead for increased regulation of their industry, to put fly-by-night contractors out of business. “Would you please regulate us?” said Dave DeBlander of ProClean Restoration and Cleaning in Pensacola. “Regulate us like mold (remediation) is regulated. Get rid of those bad companies there in South Florida.…

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David Altmaier promises active role in workers’ compensation debate

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The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has no plans to draft its own legislative fix for rising workers’ compensation rates, but that doesn’t mean regulators are ignoring the problem, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said Wednesday. “We expect to be actively involved in that conversation,” Altmaier told reporters as his office’s biannual industry conference wound down. “We are going to have opinions on how potential legislation protects injured workers and how they access the workers’ comp market and things of that…

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Citizens Insurance, regulators warn of fraud post-Hurricane Matthew

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Citizens Property Insurance Corp. was quick to warn policyholders against signing away their rights in exchange for quick repairs following Hurricane Matthew. Florida’s insurer of last resort issued a press release Sunday urging policyholders to call the company before entering into assignment of benefits contracts with contractors or other third parties. “Here’s why,” Citizens said. “You may be signing away your rights and be left with unfinished repairs or forced to pay a contractor for repairs not covered by your policy.…

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Insurer seeks 10 percent premium increase on home policies in Florida

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Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Co. has requested premium increases averaging nearly 10 percent on most Florida policy renewals effective on Dec. 1. The new rates would cover the approximately 68,200 homes and condo policies Heritage acquired last year from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Citizens, the state-run insurer of last resort in Florida, is pursuing a policy of “depopulation” — encouraging policyholders to shift to the private insurance market. Heritage acquired some 75 percent of its Florida policies from Citizens,…

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Consumer Protection Coalition calls for reforming Assignment of Benefits abuse in 2017 Session

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As the Sunshine State enters peak hurricane season, a consumer advocacy group is calling on state lawmakers to “get serious’’ about insurance fraud related to Assignment of Benefits, an increasingly widespread abuse that could raise costs for all Floridians. That’s the position of the Consumer Protection Coalition, which claims AOB abuse has led to skyrocketing non-weather-related water claims, as well as frivolous lawsuits that hamper both affordability and accessibility of insurance. An Aug. 30 editorial in the Palm Beach Post echoes…

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Florida Property and Casualty Association says thank Legislature for AOB inaction

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The Legislature didn’t pass any assignment of benefits legislation in the 2016 Session, and the Florida Property and Casualty Association said property owners can thank Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla when their insurance premiums go up. The group described assignment of benefits, whereby policyholders can sign over their rights to a third party to get home repairs done, as a “kickback-driven lawsuit-for-profit scheme” that threatens to raise insurance rates for years. FPCA was pushing bills by Sen. Dorothy Hukill and Rep. Matt…

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