I really suck at politics. It is why I have not one, but two, lobbyists help me. Jon Moyle and Chris Floyd stick out in Tallahassee because they are two of the few lobbyists who are trying to help consumers. Most lobbyists are the "bad guys" from the consumer’s standpoint, although insurance lobbyists create propaganda to convince consumers and politicians otherwise. I guess insurance company lobbyists are "sneaky bad guys" with a lot of money.
The last meeting of the Citizens Mission Review Task Force had some insurance company lobbyists in the audience. I do not know if they were behind this or not, but three proposals that are clearly designed to hurt consumers were thrown into the discussion and the three proposals were:
1. Place a two year limitation to report a claim.
2. Cap public adjuster fees to 10% of paid amounts.
3. Eliminate mandated sinkhole coverage.
The first two topics were analyzed and debated for six months when the Citizens Claims Review Task Force met in 2007. Public adjuster fees were capped in a fairly complicated manner with consumer protections added to legislation regarding the training and licensing of public adjusters. No further legislation was needed. I pointed this out, and no vote was taken this session regarding public adjuster fees.
The two year time limitation was in response to claimants waiting to report a loss. Every policyholder has a duty to report a loss promptly. In Florida, the rule is that a late reported claim can void valid coverage unless the policyholder can show that the insurance company was not prejudiced by the late reporting of the loss and damage.
I pointed out that a late reported claim happens quite innocently and more frequently than one may anticipate. Sometimes, damage is hidden behind walls or in attics where many do not investigate after a loss. Can you imagine your 80 year old mother climbing into an attic to see whether her insulation got wet during a storm? What happens when the wet wiring behind walls from a covered leak eventually rusts, three years after the storm that caused the leak, and requires complete rewiring?
We represented an apartment complex in South Carolina for an apparent Hurricane Hugo loss involving broken brick walls. In litigation, our expert engineer pointed out that some of the damage probably was the result of an earthquake which occurred just after Hurricane Hugo. Who ever knew that South Carolina has earthquakes? We reported the claim late to the Difference In Conditions (a special insurance policy covering flood and earthquake) insurance company, proved a small earthquake did occur, and eventually recovered for earthquake loss.
After pointing these examples to the Task Force, another task force member said she reported a loss late because her appliance which was damaged by a storm took several years to stop working. Again, the forces of good prevailed and no vote was taken. I am not so certain that would have been the case, had the other task force member not related her experience in late reporting.
If you own property with a sinkhole underneath it, you are financially screwed. Even if it can be repaired, the market value loss is extreme. Since sinkholes are more prevalent in Florida than anywhere in the country and because they cost a lot of money to fix, insurance companies do not want to insure sinkhole loss. I exclaimed to one task force member that operates an insurance company, "if I were you, I would not want to insure sinkholes either. The best thing for an insurance company is to insure something that never has a loss because you will always make money. If you could, you would insure me for a loss to the Brooklyn Bridge because you would never have to legally pay me for a loss!" I guess the point was made and no vote was taken on the sinkhole proposal.
The lesson is that people do make a difference in government. The system works best when people, and I mean folks, show up, write a letter, write an email, or send in a video. Even one person can make a point which can stop the "bad guys" from their agenda. I witnessed it first hand with this Task Force. Anybody who thinks that one person cannot make a difference is far too pessimistic about our democracy. The last thing the "sneaky bad guys" want is for their customers to participate in a process to show how very bad they are.