The New Year brings new opportunities and new challenges. Unfortunately, this year brings more challenges than opportunities for policyholders in Florida. Charlie Crist no longer wields the veto pen that struck down anti-consumer legislation in the past. Instead, he has been replaced with a Governor who campaigned on a very pro-industry platform. In addition, the Florida Legislature may have become even more pro-industry than before. These circumstances have created an atmosphere in Tallahassee whereby the industry is in a position to get a lot of the changes it has previously lobbied for.

With the industry wielding such clout in Tallahassee, what can policyholders do to fight back? They can get educated and involved! Policyholder involvement in this year’s legislative process is absolutely essential if we are to ensure a fair result. The industry’s greatest fear is an active, educated and unified policyholder base. For these very reasons, several consumer-oriented groups came together in the Merlin Law Group offices on January 5, 2011. The meeting included attorneys, public adjusters, consumer advocacy groups and condominium representatives who understand that those of us who represent policyholders must act. At that meeting, the groups committed to work together to ensure that policyholders understand what is happening in Tallahassee, how they can get involved, and to fight against the inevitable anti-consumer legislation that will soon come. New proposed legislation was released recently. Here is the full bill, SB 408.

The pro-industry rhetoric flowing from Tallahassee is not necessarily any different from previous years; it’s just that the political circumstances make it possible for much of the rhetoric to become Florida law. For example, the so called “Consumer Choice” bill that would deregulate the Florida insurance market and allow private insurers to charge whatever the market will bear flew through the legislature last year with very little opposition. Charlie Crist’s veto is the ONLY reason our rates are not deregulated right now. SB 2044, which had several anti-consumer provisions and was the subject of differing opinions as to its possible effect on consumers, passed the legislature but was vetoed by Charlie Crist. What will the industry propose with the same pro-industry legislature and a new pro-industry governor? The answer should scare every policyholder in this state. Whether you are a business owner, a condominium association or a homeowner, you should be very concerned with the changes coming to the insurance market here in Florida.

The group of policyholder representatives that came together in January hope to educate both policyholders and legislators about any property insurance legislation as well as facilitate policyholder participation in the legislative process. I will be posting regular blogs on the legislative process so please visit often. If you wish to know anything further, please email me at sshaw@merlinlawgroup.com or call 813.229.1000.

  • nancy dominguez

    great news.;) policy holder advocates must always remember that united we stand, and divided we will fall.

    now more than ever – we need to stand shoulder to shoulder for the benefit of Floridians.

    Thanks for your tireless work, Sean!

  • Adjuster 1

    Great to see Sean Shaw at Merlin Law Group advocating for the Policyholders once again. I’m sure we will face the many challenges awaiting us ahead.
    Currently, I find the largest issue at risk is that Citizens Property Insurance is denying all of their claims and is immune from the true harm created as a result. As a taxpayer and a property owner in Florida, I am concerned about the wasted amount of funds we, the residents of Florida, are on the hook for because of Citizen’s actions. If only Rick Scott knew the real truth that lies out in the adjusting field today. If he could convince and enforce Citizens Property Insurance to “do the right thing” , then he will do the Floridians a much needed change.
    I can’t wait for the day when a policyholder attorney gets a hold of the current tactics utilized by CPI, and proves of the true harm that has been created by their bad faith immunity.
    For those of you who have not recently adjusted a Citizen’s claim on behalf of the policyholder, it typically plays out like such:
    – Contact Citizens and file the claim
    – Meet with the field adjuster, whom now happens to be the inside adjuster (examiner) and the check writer, but can’t make any determination without review from ‘Team Lead”
    – Provide the new superman adjuster with every document in the world to prove coverage on the claim.
    – The new superman adjuster takes the insured’s recorded statement, in which the insured swears to all the facts leading to the claim and also proves coverage.
    – Wait 20 to 45 days for the magical “Team Lead” to make their “Coverage Determination”
    – After the 20 to 45 days, the magical “Team Lead” denies the claim, ignoring all the documents in the world (as previous provided), the recorded statement, and all the facts regarding the claim that prove coverage existed and should have been acknowledged since day 1.
    – Explain your client they will not be paid for no apparent reason and that all of the actions taken by Citizens are not subject to bad faith.
    – Refer your client to an attorney, whom files suit for damages, interest, and attorney’s fees; which by the end of the case are double the damages.
    After your client wins their case, two and half years after the date of loss, Citizens reports to the OIR and Rick Scott about how much fraud and inflated claims are keeping them from being financially sound and they request a 55% rate increase. Meanwhile your client’s previous property, where the claim occurred, was foreclosed due to your client not being able to make the mortgage payments as they were forced to pay out of pocket for something that should have been covered by their insurance company.
    The only issue Rick Scott has right is that policyholders need to get out of Citizens Property Insurance.