Insurance controversy targeted in Palm Beach
Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
May 11, 2016
It’s the topic off the season in the insurance world.
It pits insurance companies against contractors, attorneys and other
third parties they blame for inflating non-storm claims such as plumbing
leaks. Caught in the middle, consumers often find themselves ankle deep
in water and up to their necks in unexpected strife.
The Troubled Waters forum is coming to Palm Beach County on Tuesday.
consumer advocate Sha’Ron James aims to call together
the various parties to find answers on an issue that
insurers blame for driving up rates in South Florida —
even without a hurricane for more than a decade.
It's a tricky
situation for consumers. When a pipe bursts and floods a
home, the frazzled homeowner may scramble to find a
contractor to clean it up. That contractor may require
the homeowner to sign over control of insurance
benefits. It sounds routine enough, and besides, who has
time to ask a lot of questions or shop around when
there’s water all over the place?
But insurers say that’s when a lot of the trouble
starts, because contractors can submit what insurance
companies consider to be unjustified and abusive bills
for clean-up, repair and restoration work that can run
into the tens of thousands of dollars. Depending on the
contract language, contractors can even threaten to
charge the consumer for the balance if the insurer
balks, insurers say. Sometimes the contractors are tied
to attorneys who take cases to court, introducing yet
more costs that ultimately drive up everyone’s rates,
the insurance industry’s argument goes.
Insurers blame water damage-related claims for
driving up rates.
For their part, attorneys and contractors say
insurers are trying to low-ball consumers and unduly restrict their
rights. For example, doctors routinely ask patients to sign over control
of insurance benefits, they say. And they’ve been mostly winning in the
legislature and the courts.
Certainly most consumers don’t want their rates to go up because of
unnecessary or inflated costs for somebody else’s claim down the street.
They just want claims covered in a reasonable and timely way. On other
hand, they don’t want insurers using a lot of fuss about water losses as
a cover story to raise rates without clear justification.
Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Co. is asking for rate increases
up to 25 percent in Palm Beach County, and an average 14.9 percent
statewide, though its claim losses compared to premiums have been going
down, not up, The Palm Beach Post reported.
The forum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Florida
Atlantic University’s Stadium Recruiting Room in Boca Raton.
Confirmed presenters are said to include: The Florida Office of
Insurance Regulation, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the American
Insurance Association, the Florida Justice Association, the Florida
Association of Insurance Reform, as well as the Florida Association of
Insurance Agents, Florida Association of Restoration Specialists, and