Legislative Session 2021: Insurance Bills to Watch

Article Courtesy of The Insurance Journal

By Amy O'Connor

Published March 7, 2021


The Florida insurance industry will be fighting for property insurance reforms in the 60-day legislative session that kicked off this week, but there are several other insurance-related bills to watch.

Read on for a breakdown of the bills being considered by Florida lawmakers in the 2021 Florida Legislative Session:

Senate Bill 1066: Insurance Consumer Advocate
Authorizes the Insurance Consumer Advocate to collect certain information from the entities issued a certificate of authority by the Office of Insurance Regulation. Aggregate information may include information asserted as trade secret information unless the trade secret information can be individually taken out.

SB 514/House Bill 315: Resiliency
Establishes a Statewide Office of Resiliency with the office of the governor that is headed by a chief resilience officer. Creates a statewide sea-level rise task force adjunct to the Office of Resiliency, to recommend projections of anticipated sea level rise and flooding impacts along coastline.

SB 168: Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program
Extends until June 30, 2031 the Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program, which funds programs designed to improve the wind resistance of residences and public hurricane shelters. The fund and its associated $10 million appropriation from the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund are currently set to expire on June 30, 2021.

HB 237: Demand Letters for Personal Injury Protection Benefits
Requires written notice of intent to initiate litigation for relief related to personal injury protection benefits; revises requirements for demand letter for personal injury protection benefits; prohibits actions and prosecutions on behalf of claimants unless certain requirements are met.

SB 76/HB 305: Residential Property
Uses a lodestar fee (billable hours x reasonable hourly rate) for awarding attorney fees except in “rare and exceptional” circumstances. The bill would also allow an insurer to offer homeowners insurance policies that adjust claims on roofs 10 years or older on the basis of a roof surface reimbursement schedule. Requires notice of intent to initiate litigation and make a presuit demand. Authorizes an insurer to request to inspect, photograph, or evaluate certain property.
HB 305 would not add the claimant’s requirement to provide notice of intent to initiate litigation proposed.

SB 212: Contingency Risk Multipliers
Provides that for certain attorney fees awarded for claims arising under property insurance policies, a strong presumption is created that a lodestar fee is sufficient and reasonable and except only under certain circumstances, specifically “in a rare and exceptional circumstance with evidence that competent counsel could not be retained in a reasonable manner.”

SB 630: Community Associations
Revises the regulation and governance of condominium, cooperative and homeowners associations. Prohibits a unit owner’s insurance policy from including rights of subrogation against the association if the association’s policy does not provide subrogation rights against the unit owner. This bill is backed by the Florida Association of Insurance Agents.

SB 686: Offers of Judgment
Revises and expands the statute that governs settlement offers in civil litigation. Authorizes parties to serve offers of judgment that make certain stipulations relating to attorney fees and costs. The bill permits a party to make an offer of judgment that compensates someone solely for their harm or loss. It does not include an offer to compensate for awarding attorney fees and costs. Requires a party served with a settlement offer to notify the party making the offer, within 30 days, of any grounds for challenging the validity of the offer.

HB 717/SB 1598: Consumer Protection
Prohibits unlicensed activity by adjusting firms and prohibits someone from providing claims adjusting services unless they meet specified requirements.Prohibits licensed contractors and subcontractors from engaging in certain activities unless licensed and compliant as public adjusters; provides disclosure requirement that insurance coverage must meet before being eligible for export under Surplus Lines Law; prohibits foreign venue clauses in property insurance policies.

SB 7014: Office of Insurance Regulation
Adds the Office of Insurance Consumer Advocate to the list of entities to which the Office of Insurance Regulation may disclose confidential and exempt information. Would also remove the scheduled repeal of an exemption from public records requirements for certain proprietary business information and information that is confidential and held by the Office of Insurance Regulation, including reports submitted by insurers, and others.

SB 728: Credit for Reinsurance
Provides insurers with credit for reinsurance from the Commissioner of Insurance to the Office of Insurance Regulation and eliminates additional collateral requirements for reinsurers if the reinsurer is domiciled in a “reciprocal jurisdiction” and meets requirements set forth in the bill. The requirements include but are not limited to: Minimum capital and surplus requirements; minimum solvency or capital ratios; annual confirmation from the domiciliary supervisory authority stating that the reinsurer meets the capital, surplus, and minimum solvency or capital ratio requirements; and prompt claims payment practices. Sets definitions for reciprocal jurisdiction. Transfers specific authority and duties related to credit for reinsurance from the commissioner of insurance to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Specifies requirements for assuming insurers and reinsurance agreements and authorizes a ceding insurer or its representative that is subject to rehabilitation, liquidation or conservation to seek a certain court order.

SB 742/HB 815: Omnibus Bill
Redefines the term “covered policy” under the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund in relation to certain collateral protection insurance policies. Specifies when service of process is valid and binding upon insurers. Specifies which entities must receive requests for loss run statements. Authorizes rather than requires rate filings for certain residential property insurance to include certain rate factors. Also authorizes insurers to file insurance rating plans based on windstorm mitigation construction standards and authorizes insurers to require policyholders to provide evidence of compliance with mitigation standards under certain conditions.

Additionally, authorizes use of specified modeling indications for rate filings for residential property insurance; provides additional factors to be used in determination and fixing of rates for workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance; authorizes residential property insurers to file rating plans that provide certain windstorm mitigation premium discounts, credits and rate differentials; authorizes surplus lines agents to export flood coverage contracts or endorsements to surplus lines insurers without making certain diligent efforts; redefines the term “assignment agreement” to include scopes of service & property inspection.

SB 1408/HB 1209: Department of Financial Services
Makes it a felony crime for a person to knowingly aid and abet the unlicensed transaction of insurance; and clarifies current Florida law to designate the Division of Public Assistance Fraud (PAF) as a criminal justice agency to bolster fraud fighting efforts. Also, revises continuing education requirements for certain persons licensed to solicit, sell, or adjust insurance. Amends requiring submissions of renewal appointments of certain insurance representatives within a certain timeframe; requires the department to notify certain insurers or employers regarding inadvertent failures to appoint; requires insurers and employers to pay certain fees and taxes within a certain timeframe. Requires the department to suspend an insurer’s or employer’s authority to appoint licensees under certain circumstances. Deletes requirement for agents to advise insureds that certain coverage may be available for personal residential property risks to be eligible for export under the Surplus Lines Law. Provides an exemption from a diligent effort requirement for surplus lines agents exporting contracts or endorsements providing flood coverage.

SB 906: Motor Vehicle Glass
Prohibits motor vehicle repair shops and their employees from offering anything of value to a customer in exchange for making an insurance claim for motor vehicle glass replacement or repair, including offers made through certain persons. Also provides requirements that must be met for an assignment agreement to be valid; requires an assignee to hold harmless an assignor when certain requirements aren’t satisfied; requires that an assignment agreement be provided to an insurer at a specified time; requires insurers to respond to a notice within a specified timeframe; requiring insurers to have certain procedures relating to disputes.

SB 54/HB 719: Motor Vehicle Insurance
Repeals provisions that comprise the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law; revises the motor vehicle insurance coverages that an applicant must show to register certain vehicles with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles; provides alternative minimum liability insurance coverage requirements for certain motor vehicle owners or operators; revising financial responsibility requirements for owners or lessees of for-hire passenger transportation vehicles; prohibits certain practices by motor vehicle repair shops or motor vehicle glass repair facilities with respect to the replacement or repair of motor vehicle windshields.

SB 1230/HB 1039: Insurance
Requires the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to establish the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Program. The department, in coordination with the Department of Transportation, will install and operate automatic license plate reader systems on infrastructure and would be responsible for developing and maintaining a system for matching a vehicle identified by an automatic license plate reader system with insurance data held by the department for registered vehicles. Prohibits data collected or retained from being used for purposes other than traffic safety & traffic monitoring; prohibits law enforcement agencies & certain other agencies from selling license plate data or sharing such data.

SB 1574: Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
Revises the method for determining the amounts of potential surcharges to be levied against policyholders under certain circumstances. Also, specifies a limit for agent commission rates and provides that eligible surplus lines insurers may participate, in the same manner and on the same terms as an authorized insurer, in depopulation, take-out, or keep-out programs. Authorizes information from underwriting files and confidential claims files to be released by the corporation to specified entities considering writing or underwriting risks insured by the corporation under certain circumstances.

COVID-19 Liability Protections

SB 72/HB 7: Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19
Provides requirements for civil action based on COVID-19 related claim. Offers general liability protection for businesses schools, nonprofits and religious institutions that make a good-faith effort to follow established federal, state and local guidelines. Liability protections would apply retroactively to any newly filed lawsuit.

SB 74: COVID-19-Related Claims Against Health Care Providers
Provides preliminary procedures for civil actions based on COVID-19-related claims; provides the standard of proof required at trial for such claims and provides immunity from liability for COVID-19-related claims under certain circumstances. Require COVID-19-related claims to be filed within a specified timeframe.