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Wednesday, 22 April 2015 00:00

Florida Assignment-of Benefits Bill May Not Advance

In April, all indications seemed to show that the legislature failed to advance a bill that was originally meant to target water damage contractors. Many in the auto industry believed it would also affect collision repair workers. House bill 699 and complementary Senate bill 1064 were filed to protect homeowners and prevent future rate increases from assignment of benefits lawsuits. Currently, the law states that a licensed contractor or subcontractor may not adjust a claim on behalf of the insured unless licensed and compliant as a public adjuster.

“However, the contractor may discuss or explain a bid for construction or repair of covered property with the residential property owner who has suffered loss or damage covered by a property insurance policy, or the insurer of such property, if the contractor is doing so for the usual and customary fees applicable to the work to be performed as stated in the contract between the contractor and the insured,” according to bill 669.

The House bill was introduced by Florida House of Representatives John Tobia (R) on February 9, 2015. It was approved by the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee as well as the Civil Justice Committee. It was being considered by the Regulatory Affairs Committee, but as of Autobody News’s press time was not scheduled to be heard again.

Although the House bill appears to be dead, an amendment could still be offered on this subject. The bill did not make it out of all of the committees to which it was referred so the bill was not currently available for action on the floor. The Senate bill was scheduled to be heard by the Judiciary Committee on April 15, but was not considered. It seems that neither bill will advance this session.

Both bills reference property insurance, rather than casualty insurance and neither mentions the auto repair industry. The bill could be re-filed anytime.

“This bill could impact collision repair shops, auto glass shops, plumbers and more,” Don Munro of Auto Glass Appraisal Services in Tampa, FL, told glassbytes.com. “If there is a disagreement over the bill, the insurance company or auto glass shop can invoke appraisal. The assignment of benefits also allows shops to go to litigation or arbitration with insurers.”

A news release was issued on April 17 by the Florida Property & Casualty Association (FPCA) entitled, “Clock Runs Out on Florida Legislature to Help Protect Homeowners from Out-of-Control Contractors and Plaintiff Lawyers.”

“The FPCA’s member companies are calling on the legislature to not let this problem fester, but meet the challenge head on and put an end to these abusive practices that are harming consumers and raising insurance rates,” William Stander, Executive Director of the association, was quoted as saying in the statement.

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