Last week’s news from Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier that our state has 8% of all homeowner’s claims in the U.S., yet 76% of all homeowners’ claims lawsuits is bad news for all Floridians. One media outlet, Florida Politics, decided to take a deeper dive into the trial lawyers driving the suits – and the resulting rate increases that are crushing all of us including our teachers, first responders, and healthcare workers.
In its article, The lawyers that launched 1,000 lawsuits (and counting), the outlet reviewed the Department of Financial Services’ website that tracks insurance lawsuits and reported that from January to March of this year nearly 24,000 property insurance lawsuits had been filed in Florida. It points readers to this link of the 25 lawyers who’ve filed the most lawsuits in that period.
These 25 lawyers together filed 9,988 lawsuits. Some of the lawyers are utilizing a litigation strategy away from third-party suits like Assignment of Benefits to instead simply filing first-party suits with homeowners, where the attorney serves the role of a public adjuster, too.
The alarming litigation factory trend remains firmly in place – and growing and will prevent real estate closings because the homeowner’s insurance rate is too high. And once the real estate market begins to shut down, our COVID-19 economic recovery will slow down as well. Our insurance commissioner, legislators, and insurance agents have been warning elected officials that law changes in 2019 are stemming one type of lawsuit only for the lawyers to figure out another angle. The Florida Senate has spent hours debating ways to re-balance the homeowners’ insurance market to protect consumers who get a knock on their door for a solicitor to “check out their roof” and in most cases, once the consumer signs on the dotted line, the lawsuit factory cranks up. The House Commerce Committee, whose Chairman, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia received Commissioner Altmaier’s recent letter, is meeting this morning (April 19) at 10 am. They are scheduled to consider the House version of insurance reform, House Bill 305. It is our hope that when the meeting is concluded, the bill will have the provisions of Senate Bill 76, passed last week by the Senate, that for the most part mirror Commissioner Altmaier’s recommendations for comprehensive property insurance reform.
One reaction to Commissioner Altmaier’s letter, includes What has happened to the Florida property insurance market? by Barry Gilway, President of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state’s insurer of last resort, and is telling. He succinctly connects the dots of our market dilemma and the double-digit rate increases and other factors forcing nearly 20,000 homeowners each month to turn to Citizens. He explains why we should care: the risk to Florida taxpayers and to millions of non-Citizens policyholders who could be forced to pay future assessments.
So all eyes are on the House of Representatives this week to help lead the changes needed to put the property insurance consumer back in control versus at the mercy of ever increasing insurance rates, driven in large part by out of control litigation.
LMA Newsletter of 4-19-21