October 12, 2018, WFSU-FM, Tallahassee ̶ Former Florida Deputy Insurance Commissioner Lisa Miller was interviewed by Tom Flanigan and Lynn Hatter on WFSU-FM, National Public Radio for Florida, two days after Hurricane Michael struck Florida’s panhandle, causing major damage. Miller answered questions about average hold times for policyholders submitting claims reports by telephone, the need to maintain home and personal safety post-storm, and the need for patience, given the larger volume of calls.
Now that the hurricane has passed, a large number of tree removal, roofing, restoration, and other service vendors are canvassing neighborhoods soliciting work, something she’s personally witnessed. Miller said that’s not necessarily bad, but that the burden in on the homeowner to choose vendors wisely. She explained the difference between an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) contract, used by some vendors, and a Work Authorization agreement. Miller said an AOB contract is a license to steal, noting that the number of Florida lawsuits involving AOB has grown from 405 back in 2006 to 28,200 by 2016. Fraud has become a growing problem.
“We never had AOB in the claims paying process and all of a sudden it’s become the Holy Grail in getting a claim paid?” she challenged, citing Florida’s one-way attorney fees law that has encouraged abuse in the tremendous increase in AOB lawsuits over the years, without major weather events.
Miller advised using common sense when encountering a vendor who requires half the money down and the other half payable upon completion of the work. Consumers should not be rushed – “speed kills” in acting hastily – and contracts should be read out loud to catch things that don’t sound right. If the vendor is asking for money up front that the policyholder doesn’t have, she advises to call the insurance company to notify them and seek advice and authorization to proceed.
“Friends come to your back door. People you don’t know come to your front door and they sometimes don’t have your best interests at heart. Be careful who you’re dealing with,” Miller warned.
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