Reporter Steve Andrews ran a televised story highlighting that some Florida legislators are listening to insurance company lawyers and lobbyists rather than taking care of their constituents in Consumers Would Take Hit If Insurance Lobby Gets Its Way, and Change in Insurance Law Would Take Away Consumers’ Day in Court. The story references Florida House Bill 751 filed by Representative Alex Andrade. Senate Bill 1464 filed by Senator Jeff Brandes from St. Petersburg is just as bad. It is obviously written by insurance company lawyers and lobbyists wanting to make it more difficult for policyholders to bring actions holding delaying, denying, and underpaying insurance companies accountable.
These proposed laws are bad public policy and make it harder for Floridians to stand up to insurance companies that harm them. Floridians do not need laws that make it more difficult to hold insurance companies accountable. Instead, Floridians need laws to make it easier for insurers to be called out and then punished for breaking the law. What good is it to have laws requiring insurance companies to act in good faith when it is virtually impossible to enforce them?
Florida already has one of the nation’s most difficult statutory schemes to bring a bad faith law suit.1 There is a requirement that a notice be sent to the insurer. If the insurer pays the contract damages within 60 days, it cannot be held liable for other damages it caused. There is also a requirement of a “business practice” finding to punish the insurer. This is what Insurance Law Professor Jay Feinman has to say about that requirement:
States need to adopt even stronger statutes spelling out the claims practices rules that companies must follow and providing realistic measures to enforce the rules. First, most of the adopted claims practices statutes state that a company can be punished only if it violates the rules “with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice.” That is a bizarre qualification, like saying that a criminal’s first offense is free and only repeat offenders or members of the Mafia should be punished. Every time a company violates fair claims practices standards the consumer who relied on the company is injured, and the violation of the law should be punished.2
I suggest readers contact their Florida legislators and ask them to vote “no” to these two bills. Further, emails and letters should be sent to the two bill sponsors asking them to withdraw their proposed legislation because it is bad for Florida and their community:
Senator Jeff Brandes
9800 4th Street North
St. Petersburg, FL 33702
Representative Alex Andrade
226 South Palafox Place
Pensacola, FL 32502-5828
Thought For The Day
Although our interests as citizens vary, each one is an artery to the heart that pumps life through the body politic, and each is important to the health of democracy.
1 Fla. Stat. § 624.155.
2 Jay M. Feinman, Delay, Deny, Defend. (Delden Press, 2010) p. 210.