Bill to cut claims abuses advances
Attorneys fees would be more difficult for “bad actor” water restoration companies and their attorneys to collect from insurance companies under a bill advanced Tuesday by the state House Judiciary Committee.
The committee voted 13-5 to advance the bill to the full House despite concerns by some members that it would tilt the playing field too far in favor of insurance companies in disputes over how much should be paid to repair damaged properties.
Similar to a bill that passed the full House last spring but wasn’t considered in the Senate, the new bill aims to remove incentives for water restoration companies and their attorneys to sue insurers.
Florida law has long enabled insurance policyholders to dispute insurers’ settlement offers in court without the risk they’d be forced to pay insurers’ legal fees if they lose.
But insurers contend the so-called one-way attorney fee provision is abused by a group of restoration companies and their attorneys — mostly in Broward and Palm Beach counties — who persuade homeowners to sign over benefits of their claims, then file lawsuits by the hundreds to coerce insurers to settle for any amount over their original offers. Those settlements entitle the restoration companies’ attorneys to claim thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Policyholders statewide pay for the abuses through annual rate increases that won’t stop unless the Legislature shuts down easy access to one-way attorneys fees, insurers contend.
The new bill, sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull, RPanama City, would establish a complicated formula to dictate whether plaintiffs working under assignments