The December 2022 property insurance market reforms passed by the Florida Legislature are making a big difference already, with fewer and less severe non-hurricane claims and fewer daily lawsuits, according to Stacey Giulianti of Florida Peninsula Insurance Company. I had the recent pleasure of talking with Stacey, who is a Co-Founder and Chief Legal Officer at Florida Peninsula and a former plaintiff attorney. We recorded our conversation as the latest episode of The Florida Insurance Roundup podcast.
He said the reforms, specifically the elimination of one-way attorney fees, will “level the playing field” between plaintiff and defense attorneys in disputed claims. He disagrees with critics who say it will make it difficult for policyholders to seek relief in court. Courts at the end of a case can still award attorney fees if justified and tax costs, such as the hiring of an expert witness, something he said is actually needed in less than 10% of disputes. “That’s a little bit of nonsense from plaintiff lawyers trying to say that you need an expert in every case,” said Stacey, who is also an accredited claims adjuster. “You don’t, because most of these cases, we already know what the damage is. And it’s really a scope and pricing differential. Do you repair it, do you replace it, is it $5,000 to repair that, or is it $50,000 to repair that?” Stacey agreed with the point I have long made: that hiring an expert would still be less expensive to the consumer than paying 30% to 40% of their court award in attorney fees.
We also talked about the innovative options included in the reforms, including insurance companies now allowed to offer mandatory binding arbitration in their policies with a resulting premium discount. Stacey also shared what Peninsula and some other major carriers are doing in their newly created “Customer Experience Departments,” in an effort to avoid disputes in the first place.
Stacey also shared his thoughts about the reticence that many reinsurance companies have in offering coverage to Florida domestic insurance companies for the upcoming June 1 renewal for hurricane season. He urges reinsurers to “look at the insurance company’s operations in regards to what data they collect and how they use it, especially in underwriting. Some companies do better than others in using data to better protect their capital,” he said. “Carriers are going to remember who in the reinsurance side stuck with them during this time when they weren’t sure, because I’m telling you, it’s going to get much better. I saw it with the sinkholes issue. I was a plaintiff’s lawyer. I know how people think.”
You can read more – and better yet, listen to the full podcast here.
LMA Newsletter of 2-20-23