Insurance group says Florida Legislature should tackle texting while driving, benefits abuses

Assignment of benefits (AOB) abuse and outlawing texting while driving should be top priorities for the 2018 Florida State Legislature, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

The storms that hit Florida this past fall, particularly Hurricane Irma, caused significant damage and flooding. PCI cautions the state legislature that any reforms related to hurricane preparedness should include assignment of benefits abuse.

“Widespread storm damage creates opportunities for unscrupulous contractors to prey on storm victims who unwittingly sign over their insurance benefits,” PCA Regional Manager Logan McFaddin said.

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation said that as of July 17, about 10,000 lawsuits are pending in Florida – a 33 percent increase compared to the same time the year prior.  About 93 percent of those lawsuits are from the tri-county area of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Nearly 20,000 AOB lawsuits were filed against auto insurers in 2016, up from 400 in 2006, according to the Florida Department of Financial Services.

“PCI is focused on ridding the system of these abuses,” McFaddin said. “Senate Bill 62 by Senator Dorothy Hukill and House Bill 7015 by the House Judiciary Committee are good pieces of legislation that address the root of the problem.”

Mcfaddin said auto owners are also being taken advantage of by some auto glass repair companies.

“Senate Bill 396 by Senator Hukill and House Bill 811 by Representative Rene Plasencia will protect Florida motorists from auto glass repair abuse,” McFaddin said.

Another concern of PCI is distracted driving, which is contributing to a rising number of automobile accidents in Florida. Motor vehicles fatalities in Florida have increased 43 percent since 2014, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Florida is one of only four states that hasn’t already made texting while driving a primary enforcement law. That needs to change, PCI said.

“Making texting while driving a primary offense is a top priority this session,” McFaddin said. “Florida is one of many states experiencing double-digit spikes in distracted driving-related crashes. Safety is the first concern. However, the increase in crash frequency and severity also is increasing consumers’ auto insurance costs. PCI joins the DNT TXT N DRV COALITION this session in urging the passage of Senate Bill 90 by Senator Keith Perry and House Bill 33 by Representative Jackie Toledo.”