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
District Office
9800 4th Street North
Suite 200
St. Petersburg, FL 33702
(727) 563-2100

Representative Alex Andrade
District Office
Suite 401B
226 South Palafox Place
Pensacola, FL 32502-5828
(850) 595-0467

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.
—Bill Moyers
1 Fla. Stat. § 624.155.
2 Jay M. Feinman, Delay, Deny, Defend. (Delden Press, 2010) p. 210.

  • shirley heflin

    Dear Chip:

    It seems that the harder Insureds fight to make insurance companies accountable for their unacceptable claims handling and bad faith actions, the harder some of the “higher ups” fight against them! Apparently some Representatives and Senators – upon being elected BY THE PEOPLE – enter office and sponsor Bills advocating on behalf of billion dollar corporations like insurance companies! How dare they lie and do an about face like that. Insurance companies may have contributed to their campaign pillars, but they DID NOT enter the voting booth and push the “VOTE” button!

    I’ve personally witnessed – after decades of fighting – how the playing field has been SOMEWHAT leveled for policyholders when dealing with their insurance companies. Indeed, it has not been leveled to the extent that a policyholder can match their carrier financially because they generally do not have an entire law firm on retainer to represent their cause, but there are more resources available today to help policyholders than there were 25 years ago. I’m not sure what civics lesson Senator Brandes and/or Representative Andrade missed out on, but the people DO NOT NEED bills introduced that CHISEL AWAY THE PEOPLES/INSUREDS’ RIGHTS !! THEY NEED RIGHTS INTRODUCED THAT FURTHER THEIR INTERESTS!!

    I’m definitely going to e/mail Senator Brandes and Representative Andrade and I’m going to show you as a “cc” on each e/mail. In fact, I can’t think of a better birthday present for the best policyholder Attorney in the world!

    Tampa, FL

    • Shirley,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I think we need to educate our legislators. These laws are not good Floridians
      nor any business except for the bad actor insurance company businesses. The
      insurance industry has an army of propagandists that are on retainer constantly
      in the ear of our elected officials.

      There are only a few of us and we are not getting paid to do this. Still, we
      have to try.

  • Amy Bach

    Thank you for going above and beyond to expose the potential train wreck that may be coming for Florida property owners. If individuals and businesses lose their right to challenge unfair claim practices in open court they will lose critically important leverage to get their money’s worth from their insurance policies and it will be a very sad day for the health of the state’s economy,