Jeff Atwater, Florida's Chief Financial Officer or CFO, approached the Legislature this spring with a seemingly simple request-grant additional protections to consumers dealing with property insurance companies. The push spurred the creation of several bills that all seek to protect insurance customers from overreaching insurance companies. Currently, a bill known as the "homeowner claims bill of rights" is heading for floor votes in the Florida House and the Senate.
The homeowner claims bill of rights would require insurers to provide homeowners with a one page summary of their rights when filing insurance claims. The measure was advanced by Atwater after he received thousands of calls to his office from consumers confused as to how to file a claim when their home has been damaged by a storm, fire, or other disaster. The one page summary would simplify matters for homeowners, explaining the steps and what they can expect when they file a claim. Our Miami homeowners' insurance attorneys find that the legislation might further prohibit insurance companies from using credit information to cancel a policy or deny a claim if the policy has been active for more than 90 days.
While many laud HB 743 and its companion SB 708 as providing much needed additional protections for consumers, some homeowner advocates feel the bills have been watered down considerably after insurance industry lobbying.
CFO Jeff Atwater said in a public statement that the bill was an important step forward, and the homeowner claims bill of rights vital in allowing the homeowner to feel educated and confident during the claims process. It also addresses a widely publicized issue of insurer's canceling policies after 90 days. Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Co. of Fort Lauderdale, who's biggest insurance market is Palm Beach County, outraged customers by engaging in this practice. Consumers were left with no coverage for water and fire damage after Universal cancelled their policies instead of paying large claims. The company's basis for denial of the claims was the consumer's failure to mention obscure credit information. This information was raised for the first time after years of the consumer making premium payments.
Though the legislation appears to be a strong first step in strengthening homeowner rights, it does fall short of addressing a wider range of proposals put forth by insurance consumer advocate groups. For instance, nothing in the bill addressing the insurer's right to examine customers under oath, which unchecked often becomes a bullying tactic.
Greenberg Stone and Urbano: Miami Homeowners Insurance Lawyers Working Hard for Our Clients
A home is one of the most expensive purchases that a person can make. In addition to the fact that insurance is a required component of obtaining and keeping a home mortgage, it also is the safety net for any repairs or rebuilds that might be necessary after a devastating event. When a claim is denied, a homeowner may feel that he has nowhere to turn, but the skilled homeowners' insurance attorneys at Greenberg Stone and Urbano have more than 120 years of combined experience in getting justice for homeowners. Our dedication to our clients has led to an "AV" rating from Martindale Hubbell, and it is why we have been asked to join Primerus, an international society of leading law firms. Moreover, the Miami Herald voted us as one of the top-rated South Florida law firm, and, we have earned the title of "Superlawyers," designating us as being among the best lawyers in America. We want to put this dedication to work for you, so call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule an initial consultation.